Terrorism in Hospitality Industry

“Don’t turn the war on terrorism into the war on tourism” (Zemsky, 2005) The term terrorism has evolved in its meaning since it was first introduced in 1790s during the violent period following the French Revolution, to what it is now as the acts of violence or brutality intended to gain political, religious or ideological objective through intimidation and instillation of fear in the targeted population (Jenkins, 2003; Enders and Sandler, 2002).

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In hospitality industry, concern regarding terrorism has been noticed since the mid-1980s, as cases of terrorism in tourism related sectors increased dramatically from 206 in 1972 to 3,010 in 1985 (d’Amore and Anunza, 1986). Since then, security is seen as crucial (Pizam and Mansfeld, 1996) and is increasingly intensified especially after the tragic events on September 11, 2001 (Cohen, 2002). Terrorism in hospitality industry is continuously happening. Post the 9/11 era, there have been many significant terrorism incidents targeting hotels worldwide (Guardian, 2009).

Hospitality leaders need to be able to take proactive actions to minimize occurrence possibilities. However, managing security in hospitality industry is a little more complex when compared with other industries, and therefore required a different approach. This essay aims to critically analyze the unique challenges faced by hospitality industry in managing its security. Three main issues will be discussed thoroughly and some related examples will be presented as supporting explanations. Then, it will be followed by relevant recommendations regarding actions to be taken by the leaders in the hospitality industry.

Complexity of managing security in hospitality industry is primarily due to the nature of the industry itself. Hospitality is a business that revolves around offering friendly, welcoming, and generous treatment to its customers. Hotels in particular, emphasize a “home-from-home” concept that encourages guests to use facilities as if they were their own in order to make them feel as welcomed, comfortable, convenient and relaxed as possible (Ulph, 1996). It strives for making guests feel as if they were in their home on the one hand, while on the other hand needs to secure it against any possible criminal threats.

As mentioned by Todd Brown, the executive director of United States Overseas Security Advisory Council, hospitality industry faces a contradictory problem in term that “they’re inviting people in and they want to be hospitable, but some are also operating in an environment that is real threatening, especially with terrorism” (Yu, 2008). While other businesses are able to opt for overt security practices, stringent security practices are often considered unacceptable in hospitality industry as guests wish to experience discreet high personalized service (Gill et al. 2002). Several London’s top hotels security managers stated that if not impossible, it is extremely difficult to ensure maximum security in line with maintaining high hospitality standards. Its unique context requires a compromise balance so that hospitable image can still be portrayed and terrorism threats can be prevented, avoiding damage caused by either service deterioration or severe terrorism impacts (Groenenboom and Jones, 2003).

Even though there is no international standard, in most cases except for those located in high risk locations such as Israel, to be extremely overt by having uniformed security guard at every door may frighten guests. From the positive side, it does going to enhance protection for the guests, staffs and properties; however it is also going to promote the feeling as if they were in unsafe environment instead and discourage them from wanting to be there.

One of international security and policing advisory companies stresses the point that good security practice should not be intrusive. Hospitality leaders should be able to provide discreet, professional and effective security; which is enough to deter threats and at the same time provide a sense of security for the guests (Capital Eye, 2011). One of the very good examples that represent an effective security approach that meets both requirements to be hospitable and safe is shown by several five and seven-star hotels in New Delhi.

As host of XIX Commonwealth Games 2011, they not only implemented sophisticated technology but also hired detectives to keep an eye on their guests as part of heightened security measures during the Games to prevent terrorist attack (TNN, 2010). While the detectives were instructed to keep a close watch on the guests and their visitors, to observe their movement and report any suspicious activities, they were also instructed to be discreet and remain unnoticed. However, regardless of the super-tight security, guests should not feel disturbed or even feel that they are being watched.

This shows that even though it is difficult to find the balance between hospitality versus security, some innovative approaches are available out there and the implementation will be truly favorable for the business. Next issue to be discussed is the vulnerability of hospitality industry which makes it an easy target for terrorists. The physical environment of the industry, for example in hotels, complicates the way security needs to be managed. As mentioned earlier they emphasize on “home-from-home” concept, and thus are built with aesthetics and comfort, not security and safety in mind (Goslin, 2008).

As a public place with multiple entrances and exits as well as numerous arrivals and departures; everyone, including terrorists, can basically come in and walk around for 24/7 without really being noticed. Loading docks, garages, delivery vehicles, and luggage storage areas all present risks of their own (Cetron, 2004). In addition, the infrastructures also somewhat represent different vulnerabilities. HVAC and water supply systems, electric power and telecommunication services; all are exposed to danger (Homeland Security, 2004). Some researchers (Gill et al. 2002; Groenenboom and Jones, 2003) illustrate a hotel with all facilities that it offers, such as restaurants and bars, shops, leisure centers, nightclubs and so on, as a small city center. Therefore, various crimes that usually happen in the streets may also possibly happen in the hotel. Among all, restaurants face special risks that just a little inadvertence may provide an opportunity for terrorists to easily contaminate the food with bacteria, toxic chemicals or even radioactive materials (Cetron, 2004). It must be remembered that there are different modes of terrorist attacks.

From his analysis regarding the logistical burden of each different attack mode, Baxter (2003) showed that the impact of successful biological attack, for example anthrax bacteria, can be many times larger than the impact of conventional bomb attack (Appendix). Even though the impacts can only be seen after some time if compared with immediate damage caused by bombs, it is still equally if not more devastating (Cetron, 2004). Most hotels currently are stuck with the “Maginot Line” syndrome in managing security in their properties.

Security is ineffectively designed solely based on the existing gaps from previous attack to prevent it from reoccurring rather than based on foreseen future attacks, ignoring the fact that terrorists are consistently able to come up with new strategies to overcome the security countermeasures in place (Goslin, 2008). Exact example can be seen from Marriott Jakarta. After its entrance was being hit by suicide bombing in 2003, security guards started to vigorously search every coming guest for bombs and weapons at every lobby entrance.

However, the staff entrance is completely forgotten until it was used by the hotel’s florist to smuggle in the bombs in 2009 (Jerard, Astuti and Feisal, 2009). As summarized by Cetron (2004), there are just too many access points which offer opportunities for attack. Vulnerability characteristics of hospitality industry often make it seen as soft-target for terrorist attack. Therefore, although chance of terrorist attack from happening is considered low (Mitroff, 2005), security is still necessary to be managed.

Hospitality leaders may take some actions through implementation of new procedures such as luggage scanning upon arrival, metal detectors at entrances, forbidding long-term luggage storage or randomly requesting guests’ identification (Brady, 2009). Besides, from the Marriott Jakarta bombing in 2009, hospitality leaders should also learn that to know their own people well, such as through background check before hiring, and to use suppliers that also know their people will help to overcome the vulnerable characteristics of the industry.

Lastly, it is extremely challenging to manage security in hospitality industry as it appears not only as soft-target, due to the hospitable and vulnerable characteristics as previously discussed; but also as tempting-target for terrorism attacks (Pizam, 2009). Hospitality industry organizations, especially the international chain ones are often regarded as representing the western ideologies that current terrorists are mostly fighting against.

Because government establishments as the main targets have continuously improved their security defenses and become harder to be attacked; hotels are therefore chosen as secondary targets to represent attacks toward the respective governments (Richter and Waugh, 1986; Stratfor, 2005). For example, in November 2002, three suicide bombers detonated a bomb in Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel’s lobby which is located in Mombasa, Kenya, to show its opposition against Israel government (Daily Mail, 2002). And in August 2003, Canal Hotel in Baghdad, Iraq was also bombed because the hotel had been used by United Nations as its headquarters (UN, 2004).

Not only international chain hotels, international guests are also frequently targeted as they symbolize wealth, freedom of choice or independence that is associated with western (Richter and Waugh, 1986). The terrorism impacts involving international guests as the victims is considered to provide guaranteed extensive international media coverage, which therefore allow terrorists to widely spread their messages and making them heard loud, clear and fast in the most effective manner (Sonmez, Apostolopoulos and Tarlow, 1999; Pizam 2009).

Moreover, in September 2008, Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan was bombed when the entire Pakistan’s leaders, including president, prime minister and armed service chiefs, were rumored to have been scheduled for dinner over there (BBC, 2008). This shows that actually the hotel was just served as the third-party in the overall plan. As it is common for a hotel to host various events or conferences that may involve highly influential people or political figures as participant, which may be the target of terrorists, indirectly the hotel itself also faces the threat of danger.

This latter issue is more likely beyond the control of the hospitality industry leaders. However, the fact that terrorist attacks do not usually occur at locally owned hotels that cater to domestic tourists (Pizam, 2009) exemplifies that hospitality leaders in international chain hotels may try to find strategies for their hotels to blend in with the local communities and create mix between domestic and international guests.

In conclusion, all the issues discussed above; the difficulties in finding the balance between hospitality and security, the vulnerable characteristics, and its association with western ideologies which makes it appears as tempting-target for terrorism attacks; have led to certain complexity of security management in hospitality industry if compared with any other industries.

Current and future hospitality leaders are required to have the abilities to cope with these issues as it has been widely agreed that for terrorists to strike is no longer a question of “if”, but rather a question of “when”, “how” and “how prepared” the hotel is to deal with it (Mitroff, 2005). Recent terrorist attacks on hotels worldwide (Guardian, 2009) have increasingly raised guests’ awareness regarding the importance of proper security management to be put in place.

Security is becoming a major issue that affects guests’ decision when planning a hotel stay (Sonmez and Graefe, 1998a). Not only that, even for some hotels, security enhancement by having high-level security measures is now regarded as an important selling point (Caterer and Hotelkeeper, 2006). Therefore, a more proactive approach in managing security is extremely required (Ritchie, 2004).

In addition to high technology investment like what Dorchester Hotel in London just recently did through the installation of new IP video surveillance management software (Milestone, 2009), employees also need to be trained to fully enhance the overall security measures quality. Employees must be the key focused elements that must be taken care of as in fact they are the ones behind all of the implemented systems and technologies, the ones who have the eyes and ears to recognize any suspicious activities.

At last, having emotional intelligence, the ability to perceive, identify, and manage own emotions; as well as to understand others and having the knowledge or skills to manage relationship with others (Serrat, 2009); will help hospitality leaders to be able to do it all, to overcome all challenges and continuously come up with effective security plans and strategies, to make decisions and put them into real actions throughout daily operations, as well as to train the employees, that will result in superior level of security as a whole. ? List of References

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