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Philip Farina Reviews Tourism Security Issues

The safety and security of a destination influences travelers

May 23, 2010

The safety and security of a destination influences travelers' "go/no go" decision, and yet both government and the private sector leadership discount the importance of “law and order” as a factor in visitor arrivals. Philip Farina, an expert in global security issues as they impact on the hospitality, travel, and tourism industry, suggests the first steps in creating a safe environment for travelers.

Philip Farina Reviews Tourism Security Issues
“If it is not one thing, it is another,” a former boss would say over and over while wringing her hands. No minute passed without something disturbing the desired calm; there was always a new crisis skulking quietly in the corner, waiting to become the next disaster.

Hotels: Ladies in Waiting
The apostles of doom may appear to arrive from nowhere, but according to security expert, Philip Farina (CPP, CLSD), founder and CEO of Farina and Associates, Ltd. and, hotel property and destination vulnerabilities are visible to a trained eye. Unfortunately, many tourism industry managers are not experienced in risk assessment and are reluctant to bring in the experts to conduct a security audit, leaving the hotel, (including staff and guests) at risk. Whether the property is at the top of the luxury ladder or offers back-packers a clean bed and shower, risk assessment is the first step towards developing a viable security audit and action plan to be implemented in the face of an emergency.

Before starting a risk assessment and security management program, hotel and security experts should:

1. Review the existing crime data in their locale to determine level of risk.
2. Conduct a risk assessment - including opportunities for civil, economic, natural, technical, secondary, and subsequent unrest.
3. Determine the quantity of the incidents, as well as the quality/type of criminal behavior.
4. Evaluate how the hotel staff has responded to on-premise disturbances – identifying the weakest link.
5. Identify who the first responders were (are these people the correct choices?)
6. How did the incident impact on the organization?
7. What were the losses (i.e., financial, public relations, time, and personnel)?
8. Finally, write a report detailing “lessons learned.”
9. Develop a strategic plan integrating “lessons learned.”
10. Develop a tactical plan to implement security procedures during emergencies.
11. Train staff to understand and assume their safety/security responsibilities

Electronics - Lock the Door
Although some hotels still cling to the old-fashioned door key, Farina stresses the importance of electronic locks and deadbolts. He is not sure whether a growing interest in the use of cell phones to open hotel room doors provides the same level of safety, although they are gaining international acceptance.

OpenWays currently equips 4 billion cell phones in use around the world with a service that allows mobile users to proceed to check-in and hotel room access at a hotel by using their cell phones. OpenWays eliminates the need for the guest to stop and wait at the front desk upon arrival and reduces hotel operating expenses, because it eliminates additional personnel and manages messages such as “clean my room” or “do not disturb,” which are sent directly to the appropriate department (increasing guest safety). The system also eliminates the need for hotels to purchase, program, and dispose of plastic cards.

Although hotels and destinations are focusing on the installation of additional CCTV cameras, “No amount of money will keep criminals away unless someone is watching the screens,” according to Farina. Casino surveillance is usually good, because the staff is constantly monitoring the cameras, but they are looking for more than just bad guys. “The more dedicated staff at casinos are likely to be concentrating on loss prevention,” while hotel security employees are often “called away from the CCTV screens to deal with immediate issues,” according to Farina. Surveillance videos offer value–added qualities, because they are excellent as a forensic tool and useful for incident review and bad-guy identification.

Strategic Alliance - Not Hotel Security Alone
It is not realistic to look at private security without recognizing the important role of law enforcement. According to Farina, security errors may escalate if there is poor (or no) dialogue between private security and government law enforcement. If it is government policy to shut off power in the face of a terrorist attack, hotel security must know this operational plan in advance of an incident so that management can install back-up or alternate systems, enabling on-going communications between the guests, hotel management, and security during emergencies.

Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
Farina has found that even the high-end properties and major–league tourism destinations may miss designing a viable Business Continuity Plan by failing to devote enough time and resources to prepare for continuity. This is evident in disaster survival statistics:

1. Fires permanently close 44 percent of the business affected;
2. In the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, 150 businesses out of 350 affected failed to survive the event; however,
3. Firms affected by the September 11 attacks with well-developed and tested BCP manuals were operational in a few days.

Business as Usual
To protect all assets (physical and fiscal), a security audit and business continuity plan are the building blocks for an efficient return to business. Failing to plan is to planning to fail.

The safety and security of a destination influences travelers
Philip Farina, CEO, Farina and Associates, Ltd.

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