Hotel Security: Evolving Security Threats

Ensuring the safety of your guests is of paramount importance and it is essential to have robust hotel security measures in place.

With threats evolving, we turn to Farina and Associates hotel security expert, Philip Farina, for up-to-date advice. What are the key security threats that UK hoteliers currently face?

Farina: It’s important to realise that UK hospitality organizations are exposed to various levels of man-made and natural risk. This may include: fire, weather, food poisoning and tampering, fraud, data theft and of course, the terrorism element, to name a few. An event against just one hotel property could send catastrophic ripple effects throughout our entire industry. Has the nature of threats changed in recent years?

Farina: Yes, the use of technology, has greatly impacted how criminals can target hotels. For instance, instead of visiting a hotel to collect many pieces of information, a criminal can now scan the Internet pulling up specifics about room numbers, location to other areas of interest, the leadership team and photos of critical areas in the property. Using applications like Google Earth, a criminal can diagram the structure and their escape routes. Do hoteliers often overlook the full impact of security threats?

Farina: Absolutely. Security in most hotels is falling way behind the curve ball when compared to many other industries. Due to the complexity of operations in running a successful hotel and the possibility of reputation damage, many potential risks and actual incidents are kept quiet and go unreported.

History has shown us that when an incident occurs at our hotel or resort and we have simply reacted or not properly prepared for it; the opportunity for catastrophic loss is greatly increased. These losses can include injuries and death as well as property, community and reputation damage. Security within hospitality is not cut and dry. An organisation that decides to install a few video cameras and add a security gate after an incident, is merely throwing money into an ever-growing fire. Why is it important for hoteliers to partner with third-party companies and suppliers to improve hotel security?

Farina: Hoteliers should consider the utilisation of board-certified security consultants and vendors as they will have critical security insight about your property. Let’s face it, even the best employee security teams can become complacent and may only be able to view security from the inside out. While this has some benefit, it pales in comparison to a vendor who is experienced in hotel operations and qualified to analyse your property from the outside in or through the eyes of what would be a potential criminal.

The challenge for hotels is finding a vendor or consultant who can balance security and antiterrorism with customer service and convenience. Security in itself is black and white; hospitality on the other hand is an “open” environment and full of colour. Although this represents a challenging environment, only by blending these methodologies together effectively, can the organisation be successful in providing this heightened level of service to its employees and customers. What steps can hoteliers take immediately to improve their hotel security?

  1. Conducting pre-employment screening checks and background investigations on all of their employees:
    The unfortunate truth within any organisation is that a large percentage of incidents occur due to the actions or inactions of current employees. Within the human resources community there is a saying: “garbage in, garbage out”. This means if you hire the wrong person who brings a questionable past onboard, there is a greater likelihood that problems and challenges can arise during their employment.
  2. Implementing Company-Wide Security Awareness programs:
    This empowers all of the employees (not just the security or loss prevention departments) within the company to become proactive and take part in the security of the hotel or resort.
  3. The 10-5 Rule:
    This procedure is taught to new employees through their orientation and existing employees through ongoing training. At 10 feet away, an employee makes eye contact with a guest and smiles. The employee then closes the distance and at 5 feet away, the employee engages the guest through conversation, offering to assist them or provide an answer. The last thing that a criminal desires is to be noticed and engaged by not one, but many employees. It can easily get criminals to re-think their choosing your hotel as a target. The Benefits: It provides the guest with a greater experience by showing true customer service at the time, increases the level of security at your property.
  4. The Creation or Revision of an Emergency and Evacuation Plan:
    Emergency and evacuation plans are proactive, working documents that should cover everything from a fire or natural disaster to the threat of an active shooter or terrorism event. They are designed to provide the safest avenue for the protection of your employees, guests and vendors. These plans should be updated at least semi-annually or whenever there is a turnover in any position of upper management.

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