American officials and security experts say the deadly terrorist attack in Mumbai will undoubtedly cause Western-style hotels and tourist spots around the world to beef up their safeguards.
At least 183 people, including 19 foreigners, were killed in India’s most populous city. The foreigners included six Americans and citizens from Britain, France, Australia, Italy, Israel, Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore and Thailand.
Experts note that terror attacks have increased in recent years against Western-style international hotels, whose “business model demands openness and accessibility for visitors and guests, making total security virtually impossible.”
“The threat against diplomatic targets persists, but due to target hardening, the terrorists seek to attack international hotels,” said terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna, according to the Associated Press. “As Westerners frequent such hotels, they should be considered second embassies.”
One of the owners of the two five-star hotels involved in the Mumbai attacks, P.R.S. Oberoi, chairman of the Oberoi Group and hotel, told The Times of India that government officials should improve security at international hot spots, even if it sacrifices hospitality.
“There is a limit to what an individual hotel can do for tightening the security,” Oberoi said.
Some American hotel chains acknowledged to The New York Times that they watched the Mumbai hotel sieges closely. The attacks will “re-energize” some firms to boost security, said Vivian Deuschl, spokeswoman for the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, a Marriott subsidiary. (The Marriott in Islamabad was all but destroyed in September by a suicide truck-bombing.)
India will be under pressure to respond with improved counter-terrorism strategies to bring back tourists. Kanwal Pal Singh Gill, a former Punjab police chief who was instrumental in crushing a bloody Sikh separatist campaign in the 1980s, told AFP that intelligence agencies should court recruits from India’s large Muslim community.
Israeli officials are responding to calls to increase security at religious centers run by Chabad Lubavitch, a New York-based ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, The Los Angeles Times reports. Among the targets of the Mumbai attacks was the Nariman House, a Lubavitch center.
Today, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice told reporters while traveling to India that the threat of foreigner-targeted terrorism overseas “has been very deep and growing for some time,” Reuters reports.
“We have made a lot of progress against these organizations but, yes, I do think that this is an element that bears watching and that gives us…more reason to make sure that we get to the bottom of it and as quickly as possible,” she said.
M.J. and Sajjan Gohel, the executive director and security director, respectively, of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, an independent intelligence and security think tank based in London, told CNN that the targets of the attack were “symbols of Mumbai’s growing power” and were intended to send a direct message to India, Israel and the West.
“Indeed, the Mumbai attacks had all the hallmarks of a powerful transnational terrorist group inspired by the ideology of al Qaeda,” the men wrote.
Paul Cornish, chairman of Chatham House’s International Security Programme in Britain, told the BBC that the attack was a watershed moment, calling it the beginning of the age of “celebrity terrorism.”