Survey finds hotel security not a priority for most Americans
Most Americans consider cleanliness, price and location as more important factors than security when it comes to selecting a hotel, according to a new survey by Opinion Research Corp.
“Travelers should take safety precautions more seriously, and travel security should be higher on their checklist than cleanliness,” Jim Villa, a senior vice president and North American manager for Chubb’s Accident & Health business, said in a statement. “It seems that more people are concerned about housekeeping than security.”
As a frequent traveler, I AM concerned about security. However, I must admit I’ve never looked into a hotel’s security program. That type of information isn’t readily available. (Nor should it be really be given the security elements around it.) I do however, look on Google Earth to see where the hotel is located and investigate the “better” areas to stay in to minimize risk. I’ve even looked at the parking lot if I’m driving to make sure there is good lighting. But this survey made me think a more about hotel security in general.
Frankly, I feel that it’s the hotel’s responsibility to ensure a safe environment for guests. Although, I do know it’s my responsibility to take care of myself and my family when traveling… So just how safe are hotels?
According to an article in Hotel Industry Magazine, hotels are now seen as an attractive, “soft target” for terrorists and the number of high-profile attacks internationally has risen sharply in recent years. Evidence suggests that hotels are fast becoming a preferred target because they offer easy access to highly populated buildings with comparatively low security measures.
Peter Greenburg did an interesting and helpful piece a few years ago following the terrorist attacks on two U.S.-branded hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia, How Safe Is My Hotel? An In-Depth Look at Hotel Security. Essentially, he noted that few hotels in the U.S. have implemented high-security measures like their more targeted counterparts in other countries.It’s generally agreed that hotels in the U.S. are not currently considered a high terrorist threat, which mean that few hotel owners are willing to spend money on ramping up security with high-ticket—and potentially invasive—items such as metal detectors, X-ray machines and explosive vapor detectors. In many cases, the most a U.S. hotel will do to improve safety and security is increase the number of security cameras and closed-circuit television in public spaces and guestroom floors, limit access points into the building, require key cards to get to guest room floors, and train staff to be alert to odd behavior. Furthermore, those measures aren’t there solely to prevent terrorist attacks: they also help prevent more common crimes like theft and assault.
What’s more interesting, or rather concerning to me is that in May, USA TODAY reported that Marriott – one of three global hotel chains it asked about hotel security says it’s NOW reviewing security measures. (Really, why just now?)
So the question is, how can we as guests minimize the threat to ourselves and those around us without evolving into a fear-based society? Peter Greenburg’s article offered a few common-sense suggestions:
- Report entrances and exits unmanned by security personnel.
- Report any unattended bags, just as you would in an airport.
- Report if multiple deliveries are being made to one guest.
- Report if there are vehicles parked in front of the lobby for any extended period of time.
- Report if there is a Do Not Disturb sign on the door for more than a few hours (honeymooners excluded).
- Read the evacuation map and mentally note the quickest escape route.
- Stay in the back of the hotel. You won’t get the view but attacks tend to come from the front.
- In a foreign country, stay at locally owned and operated hotels.
- Avoid hotels on major thoroughfares or next to embassies or major tourist spots.
- Look for gated hotels with long driveways and multiple layers of security.
A few other interesting, common sense, hotel safety tips I found were on CrimeDoctor.com.
- Always request a room on an upper floor, if possible. Upper floors are safer from crime, but worse for fire rescue. Emergency rescue is best below the fifth floor.
- Do not open your door to someone who knocks unannounced. Some criminals will pretend to be a bellman, room service, maintenance, or even hotel security to gain admittance to your room.
- A solid door with a good deadbolt lock is best.
- Electronic card access locks help limit access.
- Make sure your door has a peephole and night latch and use it.
- Put the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the doorknob even when you are away, this deters room burglars (it may affect housekeeping service, however).
- Turn on the TV or radio just loud enough to hear through the door.
- Turn on a single light in the room if you plan to return after dark.
- Inspect the room hiding places upon entering and check all locks.
- Parking lot security is often the most overlooked area on a hotel property. Ask the bellman for an escort and use valet parking if alone.
Do you look into security at hotels before staying there? What security features and/or activities are important to you when you travel? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
Happy and safe travels.