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Security management in the hospitality industry

publication date: Nov 29, 2012
author/source: Brigadier (Retd) CS Thapa

Security management in the hospitality industry

  • Monday, 10 September 2012 18:10
Brigadier (Retd) CS Thapa

At some point, one does have to stay in a hotel; so one cannot underplay the need for being careful while selecting hotels and one of the aspects often missed out is the security management in the hospitality sector.

In the hospitality sector stringent security will drive away the client, while lax security will invite an incident experienced in Marriott or the Taj in which such prominent hotels were reduced to rubble in a few moments. The hospitality sector is the most client-friendly sector and, therefore, presents the softest target while other vulnerable targets such as airports have been suitably hardened. As far as hospitality sector is concerned, the trade off between hardening and being client-friendly is a trade off between the bottom line and client patronage and in all such cases, the economic criteria wins. The client therefore, needs to be observant regarding security, because the hospitality sector has to have the most un-obstructive security.  

One of the first signs of security is the screening of cars at the entrance; the manner in which it is done speaks volumes. What is the body language of the guards, are they going about their work diligently or just for the heck of it? Are the guards equipped properly to see those parts of the car that cannot be viewed through normal means? All this indicates security sense and preparedness of that particular hotel. The next issue is baggage scanning -- is it done properly or is it left without scanning? The X-ray machine ensures that nothing metallic enters the hotel premises and one of the things that are not possible is that all this should preferably be done before one reaches the main foyer. The reason is simple: easy access for any untoward incident needs to be denied.

The guests should also notice if the CCTV is installed and functioning. In most cases, the CCTV is installed, but not fully operational. A casual conversation will indicate to the guest for how many days the footage is stored and where it is stored. Is someone trained manning the CCTV display? The CCTV should not only be inside, but also on the periphery to ensure good security. Security lights clearly need to be seen; dark areas breed fear and insecurity. Is there a barbed wire fence around the premises and if so how high to prevent easy scaling? Fire fighting arrangements are generally lax; so do look out for tell-tale signs of smoke detectors. It is important to make oneself aware of fire-fighting arrangements, as that is mandatory in all public places. Most public places have poor records of disaster management and fire fighting is negligent and considered a spoilsport; therefore, most workers are unaware of drills and take flight at the first sign of trouble. Who will look after the disorientated guest is the moot point.

Anti-intruder systems to satisfy the layout of that particular hotel and deterrent measures taken need a holistic view. Every hotel has its own peculiar requirement and is located in user friendly areas, but how does the staff greet a visitor and the location and access to the hotel all create a working ethos that reflects on the culture of the staff. This will be manifest in the kind of technology that the hotel has used to bridge the security breach.

There are also other issues that need to be understood; natural calamity is one of them. We often trust everyone but fail to see what measure those whom we trust with our lives are taking. The recent fire at Sivakashi is a case in point. Most public places have poor arrangements. Besides this, there is a need to have a security layout and training with the local police, and in some high profile cases, the NSG. The layout of the hotel should be well documented and the security forces coming in should be able to plan of this sketch.

There is of course the unknown factor: how does the staff react once there is a disaster-like fire or earthquake? There have been enough cases wherein the hotel employees have put themselves in the line of fire to protect the guests. The bottom line, however, is that security is a tardy process and is best neglected, when security is needed, it becomes a

little too late.

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