Travelers want, and will pay more for heightened security.
By Pascal Metivier ~ VP Global Sales & Marketing, Onity
Monday, 3rd November 2003
Security solutions specifically designed for hospitality are easy to afford and operate, and built to provide the perfect blend of
technology with design

Security systems of all types and for all applications are being embraced by hotels for their proven ability to deter and document crime. Let's face it: Times have changed.

Safety is paramount, and security solutions, such as electronic door locks, in-room safes and Closed Circuit TeleVision (CCTV) surveillance cameras, have become a critical component of hotel operations.

The Chicago Tribune, USA recently released information from a survey conducted by John Portman & Associates, an Atlanta-based hospitality architect group, that stated: "Travelers welcome and are willing to pay more for heightened security."

An amazing 88 percent of travelers surveyed said they are willing to pay more per stay for additional safety and security measures, 82 percent said they favor enhanced security for hotel mechanical systems such as door locks, and 40 percent preferred to have a safe in the guestroom.


Hotels need to step up security efforts
After Sept. 11th, travelers heard the worldwide wake-up call. Today they demand that their personal safety and security at hotels no longer take a back seat to profitability. Unfortunately, not as many hoteliers were listening when the wake-up call rang out.

According to an April 2003 report issued by The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University titled: The Safety and Security of U.S. Hotels: A Post-September 11 Report (www.chr.cornell.edu), "most hotels are standing pat with their [pre-Sept. 11th] safety and security procedures."

What the study found was that in contrast to media reports that hotels had enhanced their safety and security measures, hotels, in fact, made a modest effort to alter procedures and systems. The study reported "one-third of general managers surveyed had done nothing to alter their security procedures, and 25 percent had done nothing to tighten security for their guests."

According to the CHR report: "Among the many outcomes of the terrible events of Sept. 11th is a renewed interest in the safety and security of hotels. The mere presence of security equipment, such as electronic locks or security cameras does not guarantee guests' security in the absence of personnel who are well trained to implement a fully developed security plan. On the other hand, a hotel would be hard pressed to implement an effective security plan in the absence of appropriate security equipment."

No price on security
While many believe that the majority of hotels have adopted electronic locks and CCTV, the CHR study found that there still is room for improvement. For those hotels in the limited service and economy segments that have not adopted these technologies, cost is generally the factor.

Unpredictable revenues are running rampant within the industry. Capital investment for new technology can be difficult to secure, and it's sometimes risky to make big technology investments in an uncertain economy.

But, given recent world events and travelers' new demand for heightened security, the question on hoteliers' minds can no longer be: "Do I buy an electronic security system or renovate my lobby and guestrooms?" but "How do I buy with limited capital, and from whom?"

The good news is that programs already exist to help properties that want to install safety and security solutions—namely e-locks, CCTV, in-room safes and other control solutions—with no upfront, out-of-pocket expense.

With specific programs, the monthly charge for security equipment is in direct correlation with a hotel's occupancy rates. By using a credit card, the cash outlay for the system comes after payment is received for the room.

This "no guest, no cost" program is an ideal solution for new construction hotels and those undergoing retrofits and renovations; properties still using mechanical keys; and properties that were early adopters of electronic card locks 10 to 15 years ago and have not made an upgrade investment. It is also ideal for hotels looking to add on CCTV or in-room safes to their existing electronic locks offering.

Hoteliers Hail CCTV
With a capital assistance program in place, hoteliers from all segments no longer have an excuse not to upgrade their safety and security procedures and systems.

According to The Chicago Tribune, USA report, and testimonials from hoteliers, CCTV in particular is in big demand by hoteliers, in addition to guests.

"There's no doubt that today's guest perception is that properties that don't have CCTV cameras lack fundamental security measures," said Dan Quam, vice president of Eastern Hospitality Management Inc. "If you don't have cameras, you run the risk of losing once-loyal guests to your close competitors ‘who have seen the CCTV light' so to speak — not to mention insurance and legal liabilities with regard to taking reasonable steps to protect your property's people (both guests and employees) and assets."

Ramesh Patel, President of BMS Investments, a San Francisco-based owner/operator of six hotels, concurs.

"CCTV is a must-have layer of security protection for hotel owners and operators and their valued employees and guests," Patel said. "No longer is it a question of whether or not to install CCTV cameras, but rather which brand to buy today."

Technology Meets Design
According to research recently conducted by the Bresslergroup of Philadelphia, more than 10,000 travelers, hoteliers, designers and architects agree: "The hotel corridor is the introduction to the guestroom, and the guestroom door lock is one place where manufacturers need to improve their designs."

What Bresslergroup found was that today's electronic door locks are not aesthetically pleasing and actually are confusing to hotel guests. The current units on the market, while providing a vital security service, are actually "aesthetically challenged" in appearance to many.

Although electronic locks have become the rule rather than the exception, their key-card entry process is inconsistent. Bresslergroup found there are actually 14 different ways to open the various electronic door locks in the hotel market: Horizontal insertion/open in and open out, vertical insertion/open in, vertical insertion/open out, swipe magstripe right, swipe magstripe left, bottom-up/open in, bottom-up/open out, magstripe up, magstripe down, smart chip up, smart chip down, smart chip right and smart chip left.

Confusing, isn't it? Have manufacturers considered the potential confusion and frustration this may cause to frequent travelers? Has anyone stopped to ask guests which method they prefer? Which method is more natural? Which is easier for senior travelers or people with disabilities?

Before selecting an electronic lock or safe, hoteliers and their designers/architects need to consider the physical and psychological interaction between guests and the hardware, as well as the system's intuitiveness on the guest's overall comfort. The hardware also must be aesthetically pleasing and user friendly.

Decision makers at more than 15 global branded hotel chains, along with a focus group of designers and architects, told Bresslergroup that they welcome a new electronic lock that improves aesthetics and ease of use, without compromising security.

Changing the physical appearance of an electronic lock or in-room safe to blend in with the hotel's overall design is just the first step. Bresslergroup's research tells us that technology design also needs to mirror the hotel's segmentation. For example, an electronic lock on the door of a luxury hotel should not be the same lock as one installed on the door of an economy hotel.

One-Stop Security Shopping
Obviously, one size technology, and one design, does not fit all ― not in overall hotel design and not in technology design. As travelers begin to demand more from hotels in the security arena, manufacturers must work closely with hotels and end-user guests to develop and incorporate design trends and travelers' preferences into their products for technology to be truly successful in 2003 and beyond.

Hoteliers looking to provide their guests with improved safety and security features should be pleased to know that there are companies out there that provide a one-stop-shop resource for purchasing electronic locks, electronic safes and CCTV systems. Working with a company that offers a comprehensive security package at an affordable price and that provides reliable 24/7/365 global support will help hotels streamline their security effort and bolster a faster return on investment.

Leading industry experts such as Greg Plank, former president of Suburban Lodges of America and current president of Atlanta-based Worldwide Travel Marketing Inc., commend companies that offer a one-stop-shop, customer-centric approach to developing and delivering security solutions.

Plank said one-stop-shopping in the lodging industry has been around for sometime with supplies and consumable items. While the concept is not new to hospitality, the ability to purchase security systems and integrated facilities management solutions in a one-stop-shop environment is new – and it's BIG news.

"In the security arena, a one-stop-shop concept centralizes the service and sales process for the customer creating efficiency and time savings," Plank said. "The customer has one point of contact and can work in partnership with the company to develop new solutions in different areas instead of having to work with several entities that don't communicate effectively."

BMS Investments' Patel agrees.
"There's a heightened sense of security knowing that we can purchase our e-locks, safes and CCTV from a proven hospitality technology provider, and that in the rare event that an issue should arise, all we need to do is make one call to one person and we're covered," Patel said. "Working with a company that offers one-stop-shop electronic security solutions saves us considerable time and monies on the front end, and will continue to do so for years."

For all hoteliers, the challenge lies in making careful choices. Working hand in hand with the right security solution provider will make all the difference in the world in helping to make the right choice, for the right price.

Pascal Metivier is VP of Global Sales and Marketing for Onity (formerly TESA Entry Systems Inc.), the leading global provider of electronic locking systems. The company's ever-expanding family of electronic solutions today includes Senercomm energy-management and black mold prevention systems, electronic locks, related Smart card technology, in-room safes and closed-circuit television (CCTV) security surveillance.
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