Exclusive Feature: The most recent terror attacks in France and the heightened security measures in most if not all European countries.
According to most recent publications in the European media, there are hundreds of 'sleeper terror cells' waiting to be activated and attack.
Airports as well as major tourists attractions are on high alert but what about hotels?
As we know from past terror attacks, organized and orchestrated by Jihadist movements around the world, hotels are soft and relatively easy targets. So what is different this time from previous times?
Now, those terrorists are living in the same cities that they are targeting. They are members of the local communities and they are European citizens. They know the cities and the 'soft spots'. This makes the defense efforts much more difficult.
In some countries most if not all large and medium hotels have an armed security team. This move, although rather costly for the hotels, is required by the government as a meter of precaution.
In the case large hotels in major European cities, only a small minority of the hotels actually have a 24/7 security team ready. There are exceptions to the rule. Most if not all American Chain hotels have a security protocol and policy. However, individually managed hotels or European chain hotels have not seriously invested in this field.
I am not expecting to see armed security standing at the entrance to each hotel but we need to be vigilant. Clearly, there are local regulations, costs that need to be addressed; however, the physical safety of our guests should be among top priorities.
Let's look at a completely imaginary scenario in which 3-4 gunmen walk into a large conference hotel in Paris, London or Berlin, move to the banqueting floor and take hundreds of people hostage, demanding the release of their jailed friends in France or in Belgium.
Friends, I am not trying to spread fear nor am I trying to 'give ideas' to those terrorists.
What I am trying to do is telling you in simple words that life has changed and won't be the same. "Charlie Hebdo" is not a 'one-time' attack nor is the attack on the Jewish supermarket.
Airports in the USA and eventually, around the world, dramatically changed their security at the aftermath of 9/11 attacks.
What have European hoteliers learned from the Mumbai hotels attacks back in November 2008?
Financing this new ongoing expense:
My idea is rather simple: in some European cities, the city is charging "city tax" or "bed tax" that the hotel guests have to pay. Instead, this tax should be turned into a daily charge to cover the hotel guest security.
I can only guess that guests would prefer to pay this levy, tax or whatever you call it and know that this money is being used to enhance their own security while staying in the hotel.
Hotels should take security experts to consult for the best and most effective security solution for the individual hotel. This is a 'one-time' investment that.
What needs to be remembered that although there are general similarities between most hotels, each and every hotel is different from the other.
A true "Taylor made" solution needs to be developed and implemented.
Clear policies and training to the hotel team should take place every couple of months.
The same way as we have Fire & Safety drill, we need to have a security drill.
Better Safe than Sorry!
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Joseph - Yossi - Fischer the CEO of Vision Hospitality & Travel - international lodging & Travel Solutions