Viva Las Vegas: Hotel Security in the Aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting

By Tara K. Gorman Partner, Perkins Coie LLP | May 20, 2018

The hospitality industry prides itself on being hospitable - making guests feel welcome, pampered, at ease during their stay - and safe.  In the aftermath of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States by an individual, hotel owners and operators, are tasked with balancing the safety and privacy of their guests, and safety of members of the community surrounding their hotel, with the "hospitable" environment of the hotel and the ease at which patrons can come and go - rather than standing in security lines, like at the airport.  Not an easy balancing act, to be sure. 

This article will explore whether the Las Vegas shooting will significantly change the way hotel owners, operators and brands approach their security procedures, and examine what could have been done by the hotel where the shooting took place to prevent this tragedy.   For ease, we will use the term "hotel operations" when discussing the obligations of the hotel owner and hotel operator in connection with security procedures.

The Shooting

The October 1, 2017, Las Vegas shooting is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States - leaving 58 people dead and 851 injured, 422 of them with gunshot wounds.  And the shooting took place in a hotel!  Between 10:05 and 10:15 p.m., Stephen Paddock, a 64 year old former auditor and real estate businessman, and high-stakes gambler, opened fire from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, firing more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition.  Paddock's target was the crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.  Paddock stock-piled a great deal of firearms and ammunition in his room at the Mandalay Bay - 24 firearms, a large quantity of ammunition, and numerous high-capacity magazines capable of holding up to 100 rounds apiece, to be exact. 

What Happened in the Hotel?

Stockpiling Weapons.  As a high-stakes gambler, Paddock was given a complimentary room at the Mandalay Bay.  On September 25, 2017, Paddock checked into room 32-135 at the Mandalay Bay, which overlooked the site of the Route 91 Harvest Festival.  A few days later Paddock also checked into room 32-134, a connecting room.  During his stay, Paddock brought 22 suitcases full of weapons, ammunition and equipment to his room.  In some instances the hotel bellhops even assisted Paddock with his luggage.  Paddock did not bring 22 suitcases with him in one trip, but rather over the course of several days:  5 suitcases on September 25; 7 suitcases on September 26; 2 suitcases on September 28; 6 on September 30; and 2 suitcases on October 1.  On October 1st, Paddock broke two windows and commenced shooting onto the crowd of concertgoers across the street, and then killed himself.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.