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ITB: Making your hotel a safer place.
Saturday, 17th March 2012
Source : Roland Wildberg ~ Exclusive from ITB Berlin 2012
It had happened in Egypt, India and Indonesia recently - and it can happen everywhere again soon: Hotels have been moving into the crosshairs of international terrorism.

"Is there an alternative to relaxing behind barbed wire?", travel expert Peter Hinze asked his panel at ITB Berlin.

He informed the audience about the state that international hotel chains divide the world into three different levels of "threat" and by this choose the means of safety they have to provide the particular property with.



Peter Hinze (Travel Expert, left-to-right), Mayar Abdel Aziz (Marketing El Gouna), Ed Fuller (Marriott)

But is this still reliable today? "In the old days it was easy, one could define safe and unsafe places alround the globe", Hinze pointed out. But international terrorism is at least as mobile as tourists, who became kind of "soft targets" difficult to protect.

"Right now the topic is quite a big issue", Michael Hartmann from Siemens said - at the global technology company he is responsible for safety systems adjusted to hotels. "Safety starts with fire protection systems but indeed even culminates with barbed wire fences alround a resort - we observe that international chains do have the highest safety standards. So high that sometimes they even threat the investors."

Asked if he could give some example of unsafe tourist places, he - like the rest of the panel - tended to talk in circles, for obviously nobody wanted to discredit a certain destination.

However his vis-a-vis Mrs Mayar Abdel Aziz dared to drop a hint: "If I was the Egyptian Minister of Tourism, I would advise people better not to go to Sinai", she said. The Egyptian has longtime experience on tourism for she works as marketing expert in Al Gouna but lives in Cairo. "Just a few steps from Tahrir - which today is a very safe place," she did emphasize.

She spent a lot of effort on giving proof that Egypt is generally safe and mostly was safe during the Arab rebellion: "As a woman I do not feel threatened anywhere." And even in times of riots almost no tourist was harmed, she said. "The Revolution is very peaceful." Travel expert Peter Hinze agreed: "It is mainly power struggles there, old against new, tourists are out of target."

But what if? Hinze asked a tycoon of hotelier expertise: Ed Fuller is President and Managing Director of
International Lodging, Marriott International and has been in the industry since 1972. "We started some 30 years ago with developing a safety system and always have been fine with it," Fuller said.

Even before his company had always put concentration on this item. For example, within 85 years of worldwide hospitality Marriott had never lost a life through fires, Fuller pointed out. "Generally there are three threat levels - well, we have five." Fuller commented in his dry laconic way of talking. In particular Marriott has for all kinds of incidents "policies & procedures to deal with".

He showed little pride telling about the intelligence service Marriott has installed: "There is a 24 hours news service in those areas with highest protection level." In the US the management can rely on official networks, Fuller explained, but in many countries Marriott cannot find anything comparable, then "we need to use our own services."

Safety nowadays has become an important unique selling point, he added. "Before contracting our partners do inspect our hotels - if the safety structure did not work, they would definitely not stay at our hotels."

The panel agreed that safety requirements in America are a benchmark for the whole industry. "The US standards are extremely high and have set priorities," Siemens manager Michael Hartmann said.

But hotel managers cannot just calm down in copying those systems and believe they are fairly preserved for tomorrow: "In 2030 the global population is concentrated with 75 per cent in Megacities - there is a totally different world expecting us, especially in safety conditions."

The Siemens safety engineers have developed strategies to cope with this trend: "The main purpose it to prevent the hotel look like a fortress - this means you have to specify the whole quarter and equip it completely with an electronic monitoring," Hartmann explained. To achieve the best results hoteliers increasingly should co-operate with urban and regional planning, he asked.

Marriott president Ed Fuller added: "There is no more good guys and bad guys, today it can happen everywhere and to everybody."

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