Hotels, Too, Are Vulnerable to Tragedies

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Like me, I’m sure you spent the weekend grieving over the lost souls taken in the Friday morning tragedy in Newtown, CT. Once the initial shock and disbelief passes, the next thoughts are usually more personal: How can I protect my children and other loved ones from such horrific events? From there, as hoteliers you also need to reflect on how the culture of expanding violence threatens your business and, more importantly, your guests.

Like very few other businesses, hotels are semi-public buildings. For the most part, people can wander in and out without proving their intentions for being on the property. Sadly, that means hotels are just as vulnerable, perhaps more so, than any other kind of business. Just a few hours after the Newtown massacre, the lobby of a major Las Vegas casino-hotel was the scene of a murder-suicide. Shocking as that was, the incident was the sixth such murder-suicide in the Las Vegas area in the past couple of months.

Hoteliers must walk a fine line between maintaining security and order and ensuring registered guests and those visiting a hotel’s restaurant, bar and spa are treated with welcoming hospitality. Unfortunately, the time may come when you’ll need to err more on the side of safety than hospitality. That will be a sad day in the history of the lodging industry.

The increased use of mobile technologies further exacerbates the conundrum for hoteliers. Some software systems on the market today allow guests to check-in on their smartphones, which also double as their room keys. It provides greater convenience for guests but also removes another level of security in the hotel environment.

The only answer, of course, is through increased awareness by your staff. That only happens, however, through targeted training that is reinforced on a regular basis. The American Hotel & Lodging Association touts a program from the Department of Homeland Security that, in essence, deputizes hotel and other tourism workers to be the eyes and ears of law enforcement.

While that sounds a little Big Brother, it can actually be an effective approach to preventing or minimizing the dangers of both terrorists and deranged citizens determined to create havoc and take lives. The “See Something, Say Something” initiative urges housekeepers, front desk clerks, waiters and everyone in a hotel to recognize and report any suspicious behavior. AH&LA members can download a poster from the association site hotels can post to reinforce the concept.

It’s a shame our country has come to this, but it’s a reality we must all face in order to safeguard ourselves, our families and our businesses as effectively as possible.

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