Security and Risk Management in Hotels

Security and risk management have become an important part of the hospitality industry today, particularly after the 9/11 US and 26/11 Mumbai attacks. November brings back the memories of the havoc created by terrorists in Mumbai 10 years ago. On completion of a decade of the dastardly deed Ashok Malkani examines whether the industry still continues to maintain the same alacrity in maintaining safety and security of the property, as well as the guests. 

This November, as the hospitality industry remembers and recalls the horror of 26/11 in Mumbai, it double-checks to see that all security measures are in place. The 26/11 terrorist attack, when 166 people were killed in the twin attacks on the Taj Mahal Hotel and Trident Oberoi in Mumbai, have changed the perception of the hospitality sector regarding their vulnerability to such attacks and security incidents. Today one of the biggest jobs of hotel management is securitizing the facility, protecting customers, visitors and staff, and protecting the property. With people coming and going all night and literally thousands of access keys out at a time that can get people in and out of the building, hotel security can be a Herculean task. 
 
Almost all five star hotels in Mumbai have installed barricades which have to be lowered for the vehicles to enter the property. 

Shivanand Rajput, Security, Safety & Liaison Manager, Alila Diwa Goa, avers, “Safety and security play a major role in the hospitality industry today. The guests, checking in a hotel, come with an expectation to enjoy their vacation without having any concern of their safety. Hence, it is imperative for hospitality industry to ensure safety and security for the guests staying in the hotel. Recently, there have been many terrorist attacks, unruly incidents which have made the hotel industry to be vigilant and equipped to face any sort of emergency.”

Anthony Dias, Loss & Prevention Manager, Four Points by Sheraton, Navi Mumbai, Vashi, states, “Since 2008, after the Terrorist attack on Taj Mumbai, the hotel security management has become an important factor for the safety and security of every guest and staff. People f r o m different parts of the world visit India for business purpose or for leisure. And they want to be assured of their safety! ”

Sunil Bhatia, Director, Sales & Marketing, The Mirador, Mumbai, declares, “Hotel security has become an integral part of Hotel Operations, especially since the 9/11 US and 26/11 Mumbai attacks. 

The safety and security of guests is of utmost importance as it also speaks of the Safety and Security standards of the Unit/Chain apart for the Stay and Food servicing abilities as per their Brand Standards.” 

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) & Vice President, FHRAI, and Director of Pritam Hotels, laments, “Hotels, which are known as the ‘home away f r o m home’, have unfortunately become the soft targets for terrorist attacks world-wide. In recent times, attacks on hotels and restaurants have become increasingly common whether by terrorists or other rogue elements of the society. India’s outlook towards security in hospitality took a paradigm shift after the unfortunate 26/11 Mumbai attacks.”

Kishore Vishwakarma, Loss Prevention Manager, W. Goa, disclosed, “The hotel and tourism industry is highly vulnerable and is considered a soft target by terrorist organizations and other bad elements. The 26/11 of Mumbai was one example where many lives were lost in the attack. Two hotel brands and famous restaurants were damaged immeasurably due to these terrorist attacks. 

Since then lots has changed in the Hospitality industry in terms of safety and security. Many hotels started deploying police and other government agencies at their five star properties. Gun Man, Marshall in civil clothes and government agencies were deployed according to the threat level that existed in the area or region. In terms of safety and security threats, these threats are frequently in the forms of crimes, terrorism, natural disasters, health, and manmade hazards.
 
This puts increasing pressure on Loss Prevention Manager and Management to develop measures that are more effective to stop or limit the negative impact of the threat on the Brand/Company. To keep the hotel secure all available and required measures need to be taken. This emphasizes that hotels should upgrade their safety and security measures and procedures to prevent them f r o m being easy targets for such terrorist threats and hazards.

I remember one instance where a guest called us f r o m Europe asking about our beach safety system measures in place and the crime rate in the area of the hotel. She planned to stay at W Goa with her teenage daughter.”

Avadhoot Mahimkar, Director of Sales and Marketing, The Resort Hotel, Mumbai, asserts, “Security is of prime essence, especially in hotels, because people are staying in your property and they naturally want to do so with some peace of mind. They may have come on a holiday or on a business trip, but they want the hotel to guarantee that they are safe in the premises. Security is the critical job in the hospitality industry because it is essential to protect customers, visitors and staff as well as the property. With people coming and going all night and literally thousands of access keys out at a time that can get people in and out of the building, hotel security can be a Herculean task.”

Steps Taken to Maintain Security  
 
Being alert to safety issues has become a norm with the hotels. In fact, the hospitality industry’s apex body, the Hotel Association of India (HAI) had, in 2008, come up with a complete list of security measures to be followed by the hotels. 
  
Gurbaxish Singh disclosed “There isn’t one single definite thumb rule that can be assigned for safety and security in the hospitality sector. But as a norm, certain essential protocols were adopted in coalition with the Police Department to up the level of alertness and remain on the vigil for any such future mishaps.

“The industry now must look at security centric protocols to create awareness and training schedules for the general staff and security personnel; besides equipping themselves with technology for strengthening safety and security of the property, its guests and its staff.

There is also the need to protect guest privacy and this can be done by using only PCI-DSS approved software for reservations, checkouts, etc.”

He adds, “At our hotel, Pritam, Mumbai, we have adopted security prerequisites as mentioned above besides the more basic ones, like installing CCTV cameras and scanners, among other ancillary equipment. We try to ensure complete safety and security for our guests without compromise on privacy. The staff is continuously trained on different aspects of security and privacy as well as in emergencies and first-aid.”

Commenting on guest privacy, Kamlesh Barot, Director of VIE Hospitality & past President, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), states, “Maintaining privacy by using only PCI-DSS approved software for reservation to checkout, ensuring no credit card records are kept at the property, (viz.,only XXXXX with last four digits), so as not to be trapped under uncalled law suits are some of the security steps taken to ensure that guest data is kept encrypted.

Another step towards this end is training staff on maintaining secrecy of guest details and room number and not communicating this to anyone, including internal staff. Security also entails elaborate fire drills, besides ensuring methodical evacuation in case of an emergency. 

For convenience of the guest, a lot of their preferences have to be record kept. Technology helps in maintaining this data right f r o m check-ins to check-outs and only accessible to authorized personnel. Our new access control through voice ensures guest validity at every scale of their SLA escalation matrix.”

Kishore believes that security begins with good physical safety of the hotel premises. He says, “Proper security comprises of having reputed company-locking system (Electronic Locking System) which should be directly interfaced with the Property Management System of the hotel so that guest room access can be supervised. Going one step further, there should be key less entry with the help of the guests’ mobile. This eliminates misuse of room key cards forever. There should also be CCTV with face detection and access control and operational Fire Alarm and Detection system.

Many hotels have also reinforced their entry and exit points by placing Security Personnel with equipment’s like HHMD, DFMD, XBIS, Crash Rated Barrier, UVSS, Tire killer, Explosive Detector and K 9 checks. Another aspect is: training our associates to handle natural disaster and other crisis handling.
  
At W Goa we ensure security of our guests and associates are not compromised. We have taken all required steps and precaution as per Marriott Global Safety and Security guidelines. Safety and Security has become an important element of hospitality nowadays as the guests have become more safety conscious. The Loss Prevention Department is no more considered as department, which only spends but in turn, generates revenue by keeping the hotel guests and hotel assets safe and secure.”

Avadhoot suggests a few steps for maintaining security thus: “There are a few steps that hotels can generally undertake to ensure that there are proper security measures. Installing proper CCTV cameras is of prime importance. Considering the situation of crime and terrorism in this day, it makes sense to keep a watch for anti-social elements, and this is best done by installing CCTV cameras in all public areas, particularly in parking lots, reception (where the cash is), elevators and staircases.

Another way is to train the security personnel and other staff on a regular basis to handle security threat situations. It is essential to educate all staff members to be able to spot suspicious behaviour and always stay on the vigil. If the locks and keys are of the traditional kind, they should be replaced by electronic access systems that let you keep track of who went in along with the times of entry and exit. Each of the restricted areas should have separate access cards. The security and information technology teams should work in sync with a common goal of maintaining a secure environment for the hotel. At The Resort, Mumbai, we ensure that we follow most of these steps on a regular basis.” 

Sunil discloses that his hotel follows elaborate steps to maintain security.  “We have metal detectors in the hotel lobby and 24 hours security which check and register every car which enters the hotel premises. 

Every check in is scrutinized via the Registration Card and C Form (for Foreigners). Guests f r o m certain neighboring countries have to also go through a police verification further requiring a Sponsor Letter f r o m the company which has invited them. The staff f r o m the Bell Desk, Reception and even Housekeeping has been trained to look around in case of any suspicious guest behavior or objects lying around in the hotel and to report it immediately to the Manager on Duty. 

There are police visits every night to check the Arrival & Departure Register for keeping a tab on guest movement in and around the areas of their patrolling. 

The hotel has Cameras in all the Public areas and Floors which record all movements and are referred to incase required. 

The Staff go through periodic drills in Fire Safety and emergency evacuation procedures and are given training in knowing about different types of Fire Extinguishers and how to handle them. They are also trained in safety and First aid practices to handle in case it is required. 

We also keep stretchers and wheel chairs as a backup with the direct contact of the nearby police station, hospital and fire brigade station. 

Floor plans have been put on the doors inside every guest room for safe evacuation instructions and there are Smoke Detectors, Fire Hydrants, Water Sprinklers and Exit Glow Signs with Fire Extinguishers on every guest floor.”

Shivanand reveals that at Alila Diva Goa, “We ensure safety and security of our guests by taking several measures including verifying their profiles which help us set a security plan. For instance, if the visitor is a single lady, we ensure of few processes including room allocation, night security patrolling and providing a mobile. In case of a VVIP visit, the room allocation goes under security surveillance in the public area. We walk extra mile to ensure that no unauthorized guest gets in touch with them. During the presence of HIGH delegate, our security threat protocols are activated to ensure all the safety and security measure taken in all the departments.”

Anthony explains the techniques for assuring security:  

1. The hotel should have control on all the vehicles entering the hotel with either explosive vapour detection or K9 sniffer dogs 
2. The luggage and hand bags should be scanned in the X-ray machine before entering inside the hotel.
3. Body frisking of guest should also be carried out before entering the hotel.
4. Strict guidelines should be followed as per the hotel policy for carrying of weapon or dangerous items by guest.
5. Proper identification of guest upon check-in. 
6. Close Circuit Television cameras to be placed in every part of the operation i.e. main gate, exit gate, receiving area, front office, public areas; and they should be monitored continuously. 
7. Evacuation Plan and fire procedures should be in place in case of any Emergency situation and care must be taken to ensure fire exits are all clear.

Assuring Client Comfort 

However, going through the security process can, at times, cause irritation and annoyance among the guests. Since hospitality is the key to success of a property, how do the hotels ensure that the clients are not only secure but also well pleased with the procedure? 
Shivanand says, “At Alila Diva Goa, we maintain security measures by keeping few facts in mind that reassure guests of their well-being without any hassle. In order to provide a comfortable and safe stay, we make our guests familiar with basic instructions for their safety and security in the hotel. We ensure that we do not intrude into their private space or time in any way.
We take several steps to maintain cordial relationship with the guests, keeping security measures in mind. We help educate guests through brief orientations and interactions. We touch on points such as luggage and walk through scanners, elevator phones, evacuation plans behind room doors, and presence of security patrolling on the premises. We make sure that the message should reach the guests in a subtle way without affecting the business of the property.

We also provide a Single Lady service, especially designed for ladies holidaying by themselves. Room allocation is done at convenient and easily accessible exit locations. A CUG is also offered to such travelers with a select list of numbers where the guest can call should they need any sort of assistance.

Additionally, booking of rooms are thoughtfully done to ensure that families stay together, and groups stay apart. This seems to be more convenient as it also subconsciously gives our patrons a sense that they are staying close to family and friends which, in turn, is security. We also ensure a visitors policy which we follow vigilantly.”

Gurbaxish Singh affirms, “Sometimes steps taken for security do hamper guest experience, but then the way it is handled is important. Today, almost every guest is aware that security protocols are a step taken towards their own safety and security. Providing appropriate training to the staff is important as they are the ones who face the guest. Constant training of staff to handle different hypothetical situations is critical in ensuring that the guest does not feel inconvenienced.

Safety measures, in our opinion, do not affect the business of the property. On the contrary, we think that lack of security measures could. Ideally, the more robust steps taken by a property towards safety and security should create a positive impression on companies, corporate houses and individual guests. Wherever required, the CRM team should be able to inform the guest about the safety protocols adopted by the property. “ 

 Kishore agrees that security measures could hamper guest experience but, he adds, “today’s traveler also realizes that whatever steps and procedure followed in the hotels are for their own safety and security. It can’t be really avoided but it can be handled in a way that guest doesn’t feel offended or harassed in the name of security and safety. A simple way would be profiling all guests and visitors entering the premises by engaging with them, while second person with help of different methods is scanning them. There are many electronic surveillance and detection system available in the market for this purpose. Coupled with software, video cameras can now recognize activity in an area and provide an alert. One example: the system can alert when there is activity in a valet parking area. Other options include using a third party to monitor the exterior of the hotel. Some of these systems have voice command capability, where operators can see and warn off people captured on surveillance
 
Customer Relationship Management not only helps educate the client about the security measures but also makes them aware of our brand safety guidelines and the reason behind it. Guests at W Goa understand the reason behind many restrictions in the hotel premises, especially when we have big events like wedding function, other social gathering and conference. As Marriott brand, we do not allow any sorts of fireworks in the premises. It is pertinent to have checks and balance in place to avoid any untoward incidents in hotel premises.” 
 
Anthony states that security can hamper guests and any displeasure of the guests could be avoided by explaining them about the local standard operating procedures. He adds, “Earning goodwill of our guest is our prime motive, but at the same time we cannot compromise on standard security procedures and they are carried out as per requirement, ensuring it does not affect the guest’s event.”

Sunil, however does not agree with the concept that security measures hamper the guests. He asserts, “These measures are taken to enable a more comfortable stay as the guests know that the Hotel is safe place with these procedures, once they co operate with all the necessary info and documents at check-in time. At the Mirador Mumbai Guest without valid proof of ID are not allowed to check in. Any guests who do not match to the reservation advice or are not adhering to the hotels check-in policies are not allowed to check-in. 

To maintain customer goodwill, the Front office Team (Reception, Bell Desk, Managers on Duty) maintain a daily contact with the guests in the Hotel to check on their stay. Even the Sales and Food and Beverage Team Members try to interact with those staying/conferencing with us offer guest specific experiences.”

Avadhoot avers, “Guests definitely prefer good security measures in place and they are relieved to see that everything is taken care of. These days, CCTV cameras are very common and everybody understands their importance. Of course, if someone has a problem, we talk to them and make them understand why we are taking a particular measure. Once we have spoken to them, they always accept the situation. After all, they realise that we do these steps for the safety and concern of our valuable guests.”

Kamlesh declares, “Certain mandates like scanners do pose as a nuisance to guests, especially in banquet conferences where guests have to pass through these security barriers time and again. But a way to avoid these is by reviewing the points of ingress with a bird’s eye-view, broadening the net like the airport security, where once a person has cleared the security areas they are free to move around anywhere in the sterile zones. An experts’ view on these inconveniences go a long way in avoiding harassment of guests.

CRM areas are completely secure with the software which maintains guest history in anticipation of best practices in service standards. When certified through PCI-DSS, the system doubly ensures that guest data is secure and the goodwill of the property which could be hampered if the same were compromised by anyone, is safeguarded.” 

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