We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sun 18 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Hotels must re-think security

In the wake of recent attacks, hoteliers worldwide must train their staff to deal with the new wave of terrorism, according to The Feedback Company chief executive Gustavo Cavaliere.

As the world struggles to make sense of the four-day November attacks in Mumbai, India, I personally believe that we are only at the first stages of a new age in terrorism.

Unlike other terrorism incidents in this decade, such as those at the New York World Trade Centre in 2001, the 2002 nightclub explosions in Bali, the 2004 Madrid train bombing, the London subway bombings in 2005, or this year Jakarta and Islambad Marriott Hotel blasts, the attacks in Mumbai took on a different magnitude and intensity.

We are definitely facing a new way of terrorist thinking and one of the main changes is that the old version of suicide bombers is now transformed by technology, cleverness and attitude.

The terrorists proved in Mumbai that a small group of well-trained and armed perpetrators could paralyse a city and inflict major damage to their economy without detonating themselves. By hitting varied targets, this attack affected middle- and high-income people in a way past incidents did not.

On December 16, the French police discovered a bomb placed in the third-floor toilets at the Printemps department store in Paris, forcing the evacuation of hordes of tourists and shoppers at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

As a reminder, last July, 61 pounds of plastic explosives with a large quantity of detonators went missing from a Lyon depot.

There was enough Semtex to make more than 70 remote controlled bombs - each the size of a credit card - collectively capable of creating carnage.

While conventional weapons such as explosive devices are a more immediate threat to many hotels, the use of non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents in small quantities, must be also considered a possible threat.

Should hotel managers worldwide be concerned? The answer is of course they should.

The nature of the Mumbai attacks means that very few hotels in the world are prepared, trained or organised to avoid a terrorist attack of this magnitude.

There is obviously a trend for hotels to be targets, or rather the guests of those hotels - western tourists - as well as their investors.

And perhaps luxury hotels are those most at risk, because these properties draw businessmen and droves of tourists who crowd the restaurants and bars.

In many cases, including that of Mumbai, there are many hotels that are used as personal recreation areas by the city's elite.

Not only that, but iconic hotels - those that represent their city or nation - are at more risk as the perpetrators of terrorism are more attracted to symbols of national pride for obvious reasons.

Lessons should be learned from the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi Hotels in Mumbai - information should be gathered that can be used to help prevent terrorist attacks in other parts of the world.

Numerous hotel executives and security experts say that little can be done to stop extensively trained gunmen with military assault rifles and grenades who launch attacks.

I disagree tremendously with this statement.

There are numerous actions that can be done to prevent an attack like we saw in Mumbai.

To begin with, all hotel general managers must be aware that a situation like this could happen at their property, anywhere in the world, with no exceptions.

Then they should make the decision whether or not to take preventative action. Prevention means new training techniques that should not only involve security personnel, but all members of the hotel team.

Personally, I believe the housekeeping department of all luxury hotels plays a very significant role in the prevention of any terrorist attack.

Based on my experience inspecting luxury hotels worldwide, general managers are not aware that the staff of the housekeeping department is their direct and most significant asset against any strike.

It is also time for hotel general managers to direct their focus and efforts to other kind of inspection techniques if they wish their property to be safer.

The life of many people depends on their correct decision.

Gustavo Cavaliere is the CEO of The Feedback Company. With extensive experience in the luxury travel business, The Feedback Company Organisation utilises new techniques and expertise to assist luxury hotels, airlines, cruises and resort management companies recognise their vulnerability. Visit www.thefeedbackcompany.org or email gcc@thefeedbackcompany.org

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.