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Turning Security into a service (Part 1)


It’s about time we embraced service in our security department regardless of the role security plays. The other day my friend Barnaby attended an outdoor event hosted by a 5 star hotel. Control of foot traffic and guest access to the function was handled by a huge contingent of security staff. Barnaby was very indignant afterwards, asking me “Why does security have to be the gatekeeper?”  He felt that their total demeanour was to look out for people who needed to be kept out rather than welcoming those who were authorised to attend and to provide alternatives to those who were not. He went on to ask me “Couldn’t the hotel instead have had ‘helpers’ to greet confirm and direct invitees to the event? According to Barnaby, security should be on hand – but only on the sidelines until they are called upon to handle any security problems or safety issues. What he said makes absolute sense. I guess what was lacking here was the non-application of a hospitality lens to the business in question. In this case, and in the absence of professionally trained ‘helper’s, providing the security team with proper guidance on their greeting, procedure / task and closing would have created a better experience for all.


Managing security in hotels is a delicate balancing act. On one hand, guests want to know that their rooms and possessions are secure and that processes are in place to ensure that any undesirables who wander in off the street are dealt with. On the other hand, they don’t want to see blatant signs of oppressive security measures wherever they go. They want to feel they’re in a welcoming place with an air of luxury, not a prison.


Due to their open access, hotels present significant challenges to the management and security team. Each hotel, which is unique based on its location, facility design and guest profile, needs a comprehensive security plan that is designed around the functional areas of the hotel. The address of the hotel is very important when determining the level and scope of security staffing. For example, a hotel in a busy city-centre will have significantly more foot traffic than a property in an urban, rural or remote area. Added foot traffic demands that additional security personnel are stationed near entrance areas to deter non-guests from entering the property in the middle of the night, barring intoxicated non-guests from entering the premises, etc. Heavily trafficked areas such as the late-night lounge, the on-site restaurant, on-site convention halls, parking lots, hallways, elevator access paths and meeting rooms need to be monitored and patrolled - around the clock, to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all guests. 


All hotels face security risks and if nothing is done to prevent it there is a likelihood that harm can occur to its guests. Failure to provide a safe and secure environment will damage the Hotel reputation and can eventually result in serious financial loss and negative consequences. The hotel industry has long recognised the need for some kind of security initiative. Unfortunately, it has been inclined to ignore the obvious, namely, that many of the actual and potential losses and risks involve the ‘back-of-the-house’. Instead it has focused most of its attention on matters of guest protection. This is comparable to shopkeepers attributing the bulk of their losses to shoplifters. To an extent, this line of reasoning is understandable because no employer likes to admit that most of the losses are from within the organisation. Nevertheless, the inescapable fact is that, be it in retail stores or hotels, it is staff rather than customers or guests who have unlimited access to assets and opportunities for wrongdoing or negligence. This is not to suggest that guest protection is less important or that shoplifting is a minor problem. Rather, to take cognisance that any realistic appraisal of security concerns must accept the premise that most losses are generated internally and the greatest risks relate to employee misconduct.


To be continued

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