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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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.