Las Vegas Aftermath: Setting a New Standard for Hotel Security

By John Welty Practice Leader, SUITELIFE, Venture Insurance Programs | March 04, 2018

It was the worst shooting in recent U.S. history, and a hotel room provided the shooter's home base. The massacre, which left 57 dead and another 500 injured this past October at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas served as a dark reminder to the hospitality industry that security is critical, and maintaining and updating systems as well as training employees is something that can't be ignored.

Since the event, more details of how killer Stephen Paddock orchestrated the attack have emerged – details that in retrospect might have been read as warning signs by the hotel. For example, we now know Paddock had a do-not-disturb sign on his door for three consecutive days. Also, new details released by police in January and outlined by the New York Times show that Paddock brought five suitcases to his hotel room on his first night, seven more the next morning, and an additional six more suitcases the day before the shooting – suspicious activity that hotel staff can be trained to identify and report in the future.

Sadly, active shooter situations are a reality in today's world and are occurring too often in our country. Just this February, a former student murdered 17 students and teachers and injured a dozen more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. And, not too long before in 2016, a gunman killed 49 at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando. Though these are three incidents with some of the largest reported fatalities, numerous active shooter incidents have occurred at various locations across the country.

While active shooter situations can happen anywhere, hotels have a higher risk exposure, as they operate with their front doors open to anyone and everyone who wishes to come or go, and they pack in large numbers of people in one place. Unfortunately, when it comes to security, U.S. hotels are not as proactive or vigilant as hotels overseas, according to the New York Times. Hotels in the Middle East are now using "explosive trace detectors and x-ray systems" to detect dangerous weapons or explosives entering the vicinity. In the U.S., the market faces different challenges as U.S. guests strongly value their privacy.

A recent article posted by FOX News says that the Mandalay Bay hotel-like all hotels and other public spaces-was a "soft target." They quote a UCLA professor and gun law expert, who said guests can easily bring weapons into hotels. "Firearms in a suitcase would… easily get past any hotel security," he said.

So, what can hoteliers do to protect their guests, their employees and their businesses to prevent or stop and an active shooter situation? Risk management is the key.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.