Recent data is emerging to suggest more travelers are basing travel decisions on safety and security than any other top priority. To meet the needs of today’s global traveler, we must ask ourselves how we make additional advances in security to allay fears at home and abroad.
A hotel never closes its doors. This open environment introduces a host of elements. An obvious threat is that of terror and larger dangers to the larger community. However, I turn my attention to other threats that may be as dangerous to the everyday traveler.
In the past few years, the hospitality industry has seen an increase in crime, which ranges from human trafficking to drug production, drug distribution and identity theft. In today’s world, threats are more clever, and so must we be. For instance, with more and more people using smartphones and other wireless products, the lines of intercept increase daily. What once was a casual exchange may now turn into an opportunity to obtain credit card information and, with it, one’s identity.
As hoteliers, our biggest responsibility is to maintain safe, clean and comfortable environments for our guests. It is also in our best interest to do so. With the advent of social media, the reporting of and communication about any criminal activity by guests could be instantaneous and requires from us and our hotels an immediate response and protocol. Otherwise, consequences are obvious.
A solution, in theory, is simple: provide hotels with the tools necessary to prevent these issues from occurring before they become a problem. Communicate and train extensively on safety and security protocols. Share trends and threats to all hotel management teams. Instill the call to action — if you see something suspicious, share it. From the registration of all vehicles to the surveillance covering all entrances and exits, you can never do too much when ensuring the safety of a guest.
It is not only crucial to share potential information with the proper authorities but also across your company and with your community. Hotels can also consider setting up advanced brand-wide security communication systems.
At the same time, modern travelers must be more aware of their surroundings and take responsibility for their travel. Luckily, information pertaining to security and safety is readily available. The Department of Homeland Security as well as the State Department are resources. In particular, the State Department offers Traveler Warnings, Alerts and Smart Traveler smartphone applications. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is available to the public at no additional cost, allowing travelers to feel prepared for their journey.
Believe it or not, too often travel today is surrounded in fear (hotel door locks, bed bugs, terrorism, fear of flying). However, our search for solutions should not be. For this critical piece of our industry, we should not be afraid to exchange ideas, ask for suggestions and share information on best practices so we can continue to focus on our guests.
I would be remiss in failing to mention that any effort to find solutions to long-term or systemic problems involves costs. Security is no different. Here too hotels and hotel groups will incur added expenses over the short term. The incremental value and long-term benefit of these measures are too important to ignore. Advances in security may be included in request for proposals and may be used in corporate account sales and high-profile group business — benefits that all carry a long-term return. The alternative, however, can be catastrophic.
At the end of the day, catching up to security in today’s world is not only about those we serve, but how we serve them.