One week after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 130 people dead, gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu Bamako in Mali and took at least 170 people hostage. More than 20 people were killed during the attack at the luxury hotel. The incident serves as a grim reminder that hotels remain vulnerable to terrorism threats, especially post 9/11.
While travelers may be on high alert for suspicious activity at airports or on public transit, they’d prefer to leave their worries at the door once they check in to a hotel. Hoteliers are responsible for keeping their properties secure while reassuring guests of the safety precautions in place.
According to Jeff Moore, CEO of Muir Analytics, improving threat intelligence is key to improving the physical security of a property. Analyzing local threats, learning where known terrorist groups are based in relation to the hotel, and understanding threat methodology—i.e., how terrorist attacks are carried out in general—are all integral to improving threat intelligence. By using intelligence analysis, hoteliers can set up better defenses to prevent or lessen the effects of a terrorist attack. Additionally, it is important that hotel owners and managers be educated regarding the threats so they can best allocate the funds for security improvements, especially if there are going to be big changes within an individual hotel.
These changes can range from upgraded security protocols to luggage scanners and blast-resistant safe rooms. “More and improved CCTV (surveillance video), explosives trace detectors, and increased numbers of security personnel all can help,” Moore adds. “And, if the latter are well trained and equipped—and even armed—then so much the better in heightened threat environments.”
There is also the possibility of “hardening” a hotel room; that is, making a room more difficult to break into or able to resist gunfire, which can be supremely beneficial to a hotel’s crisis management plan. “Hardening an entire hotel room turns it into what we call a ‘safe room,’ a room resistant to attack where people can escape harm and contact law enforcement or security to rescue them,” Moore explains.
Moore also advises hotels to use their PR departments to promote new security improvements. “Letting hotel patrons know of a property’s latest security innovations can improve brand image and assuage patrons’ safety concerns. It can also explain to customers obvious signs of increased security, so that these improvements don’t appear scary or disturbingly mysterious. PR is critical to the upgrade process,” Moore says.
If a hotelier finds her property under attack, she must first look after the safety of her patrons, whether that means evacuating the building, moving to a safe room, or providing medical treatment. It is impossible for one person to do all this, so it is imperative that the hotel’s staff be confident enough to handle the situation at hand. Therefore, training staff for a terrorist attack should be a priority. “In broad terms, having a set of crisis or attack response regimens in place is critical, and training on them for the entire hotel staff is essential as well,” Moore says. “A highly professional and well trained crisis management and client relations staff is perhaps the most important way a hotel can prepare for the worst and work its way through a horrible situation.”
Hoteliers may have a hard time thinking about a potential terrorist attack happening under their roof, but it is more important today than ever before to be prepared. It is only with vigilance and the proper protocols in place that hotels can keep their guests and their staff safe if a crisis were to occur.