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Lessons from a Pandemic – Hotel Security

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Please note, this is not, in any shape or form, an opinion piece on the severity of COVID-19 or the health recommendations surrounding it.

From every situation, there are always lessons to be learnt. In this article I want to share some musings about a few security takeaways from the coronavirus crisis.

COVID-19 has dominated our lives for the last 10 months and almost every article I have seen from the hospitality and security industries during that time has centered on the coronavirus. What they are doing to be COVID safe. This is of course vitally important, however hyper focus can often blind us to other threats which are no less important.

The recent attacks in France and Vienna were a rude awakening that the pre-COVID threat landscape remains intact and unchanged. Just because there is a global pandemic does not mean there is no longer terrorism, crime, industrial espionage, or civil unrest.

As security and hospitality professionals we have a duty of care to be continually cognizant of all threats to our clients and the public and do our best to best to keep them safe. Equally, hotels, malls and other facilities have an important role to play in keeping their guests, customers, and employees safe.

Hotel Security

Hospitality is one the industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Hotels have suffered huge losses, massive layoffs and are fighting for survival. They have been furiously working to keep their guests and employees safe by implementing COVID-19 mitigation and control strategies.

I am fortunate to have been a member of a Global Hotel Thinktank which has been discussing the future of the industry. We discussed how together with COVID protocols; it is imperative not to forsake hotel security. It is dangerous to think that COVID trumps all. We still need to have security awareness, robust, tested and current emergency procedures, check luggage or scan guests in high risk locations, do wellness checks or be on the lookout for system hacking, pickpockets and a myriad of other threats.

The shooting attack in Vienna took place in proximity to two major hotels and could have easily spilled into their lobbies. Would they have effectively contained and controlled that kind of crisis event? Do employees receive the necessary training in security awareness and emergency response actions? Furthermore, with executives now conducting more business from their rooms or adapted MICE (Meetings, Conferences, Events) facilities, as opposed to going to meeting locations, issues like IoT Wi-Fi device security and network security are going to be important to those much needed corporate clients.

There is no reason why hotel security should be compromised by COVID, on the contrary, now is a good time for properties to assess their security situation. It requires some adjustment and thought but there are most definitely effective and implementable hospitality friendly security solutions to be had that can work symbiotically with COVID protocols.

hotel security

Hotels Operators have been extremely quick to proclaim in-house COVID standards or subscribe to some local resources who are COVID certifying hotels to a standard that they themselves devised. There are more robust options for certification but that is another discussion. What is disturbing is that the hospitality industry has never placed the same emphasis or enthusiasm on their guest’s and employee’s security as they have on COVID.

Yes, COVID is an immediate and persistent challenge but security has been long neglected by many hotels and this could hopefully be the impetus for a positive change. Whilst I think that even post COVID, this crisis will have a long-lasting effect on hotel health and hygiene protocols, the same has not been true after major security incidents at hotels. In the aftermath of an attack, security is increased for a short while, but once the dust settles, things revert to how they were previously, and the incident forgotten.

There are some unmistakable parallels between the management of COVID-19 and security that should give us pause for thought.

The general population were educated what to look for and what do if they suspected they identified the virus. What we call, suspicious indicators and emergency response actions.

Indicators = fever, coughing, respiratory difficulties.

Emergency response actions = quarantine at home for 2 weeks, get tested, stay hydrated, wear a mask, observe social distancing, seek medical assistance if needed.

Interestingly, because of the immediacy of the threat, people learnt very quickly and for the most part, co-operated and followed the recommendations. Imagine if the same attention to detail was paid to safety and security as is to COVID-19. Whether it be room theft, internal loss prevention, terror attacks or criminal activity in and around the hotel, imagine if all the employees in a hotel knew what suspicious indicators looked like and what to do if they identified them.

Indicator = a guest has unusually heavy luggage and refuses assistance. Refuses housekeeping and keeps the DND on their door for more than 24 hours.

Emergency Response Action = inform the security manager and carry out a wellness check with at least two people present.

The hotel space is going to be super competitive as restrictions eventually lift and corporate business is an important revenue stream. With the ISO 31030 Travel Security Management Guidelines, planned to be introduced in 2021, having robust, compliant, and certified security measures at your hotel, will most definitely give you a competitive edge.

However it happens, travel will open up, demand for hotels will rise people and corporate clients will start travelling as they always have. We must be ready for when that happens. Let’s utilize this time to examine our security apparatus and procedures, adapt them to be effectively implemented, even during a health crisis, and be able to welcome guests and clients in the knowledge we are doing everything to ensure the safety and facilitate productivity and enjoyment.

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