How Is The Hotel Industry Reacting to The US Global Alert?
Last month's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris raised significant safety concerns regarding tourists traveling abroad, with the United States Department of State responding with a worldwide travel alert.
While traveling always entails a certain level of risk and uncertainty, for the most part, the hospitality industry and its guests don't appear to be acting out of fear.
"We haven't seen a tremendous dropoff at all on the bookings. What we have seen is some more people ask for advice and pay a little more attention to the creature of intelligence as well as ask for some preparedness advice before they go," said George Taylor, vice president of Global Operations at integrated risk management firm iJET International.
Hotels and resorts have been taking steps to enhance security measures for years, but the most recent threats could propel additional efforts worldwide.
"There's been a trend over the last decade for many hotels to take increased security measures, both internally and externally," says Taylor. "What many hotels are doing is they're welcoming guests more often and being a little more hands-on with guests. This serves two purposes: making guests feel like they are being paid attention and allowing hotels to study guests as they come in."
"The key is that hotels are putting out the image that they're taking preparations, doing it professionally and welcoming you with open arms," added Taylor.
Although hotels in some parts of the world have implemented more thorough security measures similar to those one might encounter at an airport, Taylor says creating a safer and more secure environment for guests starts with putting together a well-rounded staff.
"Many hotels have taken steps to do more screening. Some hotels, depending on location, screen for weapons and do handbag searches," he said. "But really the key overall is better recruitment of staff, better screening of the staff and more training of the staff to be more alert, more accommodating to travelers and also to give travelers a sense the hotel is looking out for their best interest beyond just a great stay."
However it's important that hotels achieve a proper balance.
"The hotels want to increase their security and they do take a number of steps, but they don't want to become a fortress, because the guest experience is the important experience," says Taylor.
Moving forward, hotels and their guests are likely to benefit most from teamwork.
"Really it's a team effort between the hotel and the guests. A hotel has a legal responsibility to protect a guest...A guest or any traveler in the world should have a good communications plan before they go. They should be able to talk to someone back home. They should know what their schedule is and be alert to their surroundings," Taylor says.
Taylor encourages travelers to pay attention to their surroundings and things like unattended baggage and suspicious individuals that clearly don't fit in with the environment.
There are even simple steps guests can take to be prepared upon checking into a hotel or resort in an unfamiliar destination.
"I would recommend guests test their lock, know where the emergency exits are and maybe even walk the emergency stairs and other exits so they understand where they go and what they may need to do."
A small flashlight, Taylor says, is also worth bringing along in case of a power outage or emergency.
In the end, there's only so much hotels and the hospitality industry as a whole can do in order to improve guest safety without infringing on their freedom and diminishing the quality of their stay. Therefore, hotels should continue to work hard to establish a well-trained staff that's prepared for any worst case scenario, while guests should always remain alert and aware of their environment.
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