Ancillary Services Can Bring New Profits, and New Risks

By John Welty Practice Leader, SUITELIFE, Venture Insurance Programs | September 10, 2017

Hotels provide a variety and growing number of ancillary services from child care to swim lessons to spa treatments. With so many different services being offered in one hotel, it can become increasingly difficult for hotel owners and operators to make sure they have the right protections in place in case anything goes wrong. Unfortunately, when a hotel is providing day care services, youth related events or intimate spa services, among other things, risks abound. In this article, we talk about the insurance coverages hotel owners and operators should consider when they add additional service offerings to their suite of hotel guest services.

Waivers of liability are an important critical risk management technique in protecting the hotel resort. Many believe that liability waivers are the first step in protecting the policyholder, the hotel. Properly written and structured liability waiver documents become the initial basis of defense in litigation. Enforceable liability waivers are the necessary first step to protect a hotel’s fitness center, spa, golf course, pool, etc. and other activities.

There are many web-based liability waiver templates and free recommendations that are helpful, but keep in mind the weight having the right protection carries. At minimum, a hotel should have its liability waivers reviewed by counsel. Each state, even jurisdictions within a state, have different laws, rules and guidelines that need to be considered. A one-size-fits-all waiver does not exist, regardless of what the internet might claim.

In a nutshell, waivers are documents that transfer risk back to the signee, the guest. Managing contractual risk is challenging at best, increasingly more difficult in the hotel industry. Plaintiff attorneys continue to chip away at the protections waivers seek to provide to hotel owners.

So, are waivers worth the cost of development and enforcement? Yes. In fact, a liability waiver carries much more value than the cost to develop it. The money saved by a hotel for even one claim now or in the future can be significant. A well written waiver may be the single best tool a hotel’s fitness facility, spa, pool, etc. has to manage risk. Remember that the waiver is meant to release the hotel from liability for injury resulting from ordinary negligence. A general or all-encompassing liability waiver that covers ‘all activities’ is not advisable.

Even the best structured and worded liability waiver cannot protect a hotel from gross negligence, reckless conduct or intentional acts. Gross negligence is defined by www.law.com as “carelessness which is in reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, and is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s right to safety. It is more than simple inadvertence, but it is shy of intentionally evil.”

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.