Assessing Hotels for Traveller Safety
Liliana Martinez, an International SOS Security Manager based in our Dubai Assistance Centre, covers both eastern and southern Africa:
I frequently conduct hotel assessments in various risk environments to advise clients on selecting hotels based on safety and security.
In a dynamic and constantly changing global security environment, it has become increasingly important to select hotels based not solely on amenities or location, but also on safety. Selecting safe accommodation is part of a company’s Duty of Care to its employees, who, when travelling for business, will necessarily spend a significant portion of their time in hotels.
Hotels have been at the centre of several security incidents, from the high-profile al-Shabab attack on the DusitD2 Nairobi, to armed robberies on five-star hotels in Cape Town, South Africa, to the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, during which three luxury hotels were targeted. The varied nature of these attacks and the difficulty of predicting when and where they will take place further underscore the importance of selecting hotels with multiple layers of security and properly preparing for trips prior to arrival, including by understanding the risks in the area. For example, Sri Lanka and South Africa are medium risk destinations, while Nairobi, with its higher rates of crime, is a high risk city.
Factors such as the neighbourhood where the hotel is located, its physical security measures, and types of emergency planning it has in place are all vital in mitigating the risks in a particular location. As a security manager who advises clients on hotel selection daily, I conduct hotel assessments frequently in cities and countries that have widely varying risk environments. Recently I assessed two hotels in Erbil and Suleimaniyah, which are in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Even though Iraq is an extreme travel security risk location (International SOS risk rating), the Kurdistan region is comparatively much safer and we rate it as medium risk. However, there is a high, credible risk of terrorist attack in the region’s two largest cities, Erbil and Suleimaniyah. Because of this, we look for enhanced security measures at hotels in those cities, including a secure perimeter (high walls, barbed wire, anti-ram barriers); vehicle and luggage checks, metal detectors, 24/7 on-premise armed guards, and closely monitored CCTV cameras.
In addition, I always speak to the security manager of the hotel during a hotel visit to make sure it has regularly tested emergency plans for a variety of scenarios, from active shooter, to terror attack, to a bio-hazard incident or even human trafficking. We have a comprehensive checklist that must be filled out and analysed before we rate a hotel as secure in our internal database. Hotels are assessed and re-assessed each time we carry out a country visit; if a serious incident occurs in the hotel, we will often remove it from the secure hotels database until the situation stabilises or it can be reassessed for safety.
While advance planning is key for business trips to high risk areas with a fluid risk environment, last-minute trips are inevitable. When clients need information quickly on what hotels are safe in a particular city, it is important to have a list of pre-selected, safe hotels available for employees or managers to access. When organisations have the ability to quickly select a hotel even while travelling, from a database that is always available and updated when a security incident occurs, they can be confident that employees are staying in the safest available accommodation that has been vetted by security specialists.
During the ongoing unrest in Sudan (beginning January 2019), several high-profile international hotels in the capital Khartoum have been caught in the heart of the unrest. During such a time, these hotels would not be considered suitable from a security standpoint, and would therefore be temporarily removed from a safe hotels database. That way, clients can know which hotels are safe, even during a crisis or an ongoing security situation. When the situation normalises, the hotels can be re-assessed and added back into the database.
With access to a dynamic hotel database, managers can be confident that they, and their employees, are making sound decisions when it comes to hotel safety based on informed assessments and updated security analysis. This enables them to get about their business faster, more efficiently and without travel planning delays. It’s all part of a comprehensive travel security programme.
For more information on hotel safety for your travellers, contact us.