Risk Management: Keeping Hotel Guests Safe

The Erin Andrews case made headline news when a jury awarded the ESPN sportscaster $55 million in a lawsuit filed against the hotel as a result of its failure to reasonably safeguard her privacy and safety. This and other events are reminders to hotel owners and operators of their obligation to ensure the safety, security and privacy of their guests. While large properties have the resources to contract full-time security staff, smaller properties, including those in the limited services segment of the hospitality industry, have limitations as to the types of measures they can implement.

Following are several economical suggestions to proactively undertake to help keep 
hotel guests safe and secure:

• Ensure all exterior doors that are not monitored by a front desk attendee remain closed and locked with keycard access only – they should be self-closing. Frequently, doors are left propped open or unlocked, which creates a security risk.

• Review the property’s policy regarding guest room keys. Room keys should be cards that can be activated when a guest checks in and then deactivated when a guest checks out. The hotel should have strict policies in place as to how it distributes room keys to persons who claim to have lost their keys and, at a minimum, require identification before distributing a key after a guest has already checked in to the hotel.

• Make sure all guest room doors include peepholes, functional deadbolts, automatic locks and a metal bar/wing/chain. Include safety cards or signs in the rooms advising guests to engage the locks while in the room. Signs should also detail the available exits.

• Have an emergency response plan that includes the hotel’s response policies, guest communications and evacuation procedures, as well as contact information.

• Hold routine safety and training meetings for employees, specifically for those on the front-line of guest contact and the delivery of guest services.

• Revisit and re-examine current training and operations, and implement any modifications needed to reasonably ensure the safety, security and privacy of guests.

• Ensure all exterior areas have adequate lighting (parking lots/garages, pools and spas, etc.). Proper lighting is a known deterrent to crime.

• Implement security in certain areas to deter crime. This may include proper patrol of the parking area.

• Conduct a legal liability audit to gain further insight into the security risks the hotel may face. Weaknesses in the hotel’s security can be addressed along with recommendations to rectify them.

Guest safety is a priority for all hotel owners and operators and should be a front-and-center issue that is evaluated on an ongoing basis. Distinguished can provide assistance in providing the proper hotel insurance and evaluating what risk management strategies are being employed to keep guests safe.