Security in the Hospitality Industry

Contributor:  Defence IQ Press
Posted:  04/20/2010  12:00:00 AM EDT
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Defence IQ interviews Maj. Gen. Vinay Bhatnagar, an expert on corporate security, who describes best practices for corporate security in the hotel industry.

Describe your company and role. What does your position entail?

Founded in 1998, IHHR Hospitality Private Limited owns and manages destination spas, luxury spa resorts and business hotels. Ananda in the Himalayas, India’s premier destination spa, now well recognised for its unmatched service values and philosophy, is the company’s flagship property. Ananda was also voted the world’s number one destination spa by Conde Nast Traveller for three consecutive years from 2005-2007 and continues to be amongst the top three globally. IHHR also has business and leisure hotels, each with its unique signature, character and style. IHHR’s vision is to be known as a creative hotel chain offering World class hospitality with an Indian Heart.

Post 26/11, the Mumbai attacks, the hospitality sector in India revisited its security and safety standards. An analysis of the attacks carried out on the two icons of Indian hospitality, brought out the need for more stringent checks and measures with regard to security set-ups in hospitality. The Government of India, and regional state governments, took out urgent advisories for the hospitality sector to follow. This called for focussed attention, and revamping of security and safety standards.

As Corporate Head of Security, to which I was appointed in April 2009, my position entails the following:

  1. Knowledge of security operational procedures, emergency plans, safety and security guidelines.
  2. Development and implementation of a strategy that is all encompassing, in order to prevent the probability of catastrophe, and significant security risk events.
  3. Gathering and assessing information related to security, risk management, safety of personnel, property, profitability and reputation of the company.
  4. Ensuring a proper and regular review and evaluation mechanism is in place in order to measure organisation preparedness and contingency plans.
  5. Development of employee abilities and increase in motivation levels, through training of staff, so as to ensure effective responses in Security and Safety measures.

How do you enable a faster response to security threats?

Security practitioners in today’s hotel and resort industry have a tremendous challenge in considering all the unforeseen scenarios that might be used to compromise their facilities and jeopardize the safety of their guests. These include, besides the ever-present terrorist threat, fire outbreaks, sabotage, chemical and biological attacks, bomb threats and hostage taking. Each contingency would require a prompt and considered reaction. The correct response and reaction would dictate the quantum of damage prevention. Therefore, in the hospitality sector, each employee and staff member become the “eyes and ears” of the security apparatus. Thus training and response conditioning in security and safety measures become essential for all. Detailed SOPs and abridged ”Ready Reckoners,” become guidelines for all to follow in the case of an emergency. Regular practices and spot checks invariably bring out “grey areas” that need to be rectified. The saying “A stitch in time saves nine” is a prudent proverb!  Modern technology facilitates the integration of early detection and responses, and this must be inbuilt into the security apparatus.

Describe the integration of technology, physical solution and security manpower.

Terrorist tactics involve suicide bombing, as well as clandestine armed teams infiltrating the premises, to inflict as much damage as possible. Traditional security design can be coupled with convergent IT and security technologies and applications, to significantly strengthen the existing security investment. As an example, perimeter security is usually considered the outermost ring of “security in depth,” which follows a deterrence-through-design methodology that includes fences or walls, bollards, barriers, cameras, detectors at the gates and lighting. The deterrent element of this design is presumed to be intimidation and delaying of infiltrator. Using a threat driven perspective and taking into account today’s terrorist tactics, two additional needs for perimeter security immediately become paramount: real-time detection, and real-time immediate assessment of the threat. Using a network of robust, day night fixed outdoor cameras, tied to long range pan-tilt-zoom cameras, enabled with a video intelligent application, we have a mergence of IT/convergence technology with security measures that, by an order of magnitude, strengthens the perimeter, and allows for immediate detection, assessment and response.

How can companies adapt global strategies in corporate India? What are some of the strategies that should be adopted?

In the wake of globalization and the breakdown of trade barriers, companies are investing in regions that were once thought to be inaccessible—in countries, cities, provinces, vital installations, remote areas, hospitality sectors, infrastructure, airports/seaports, etc. Due to the omnipresent terrorist and other threats, all need to protect themselves to ensure the safety of citizens and the delivery of products and services. This calls for certain basic global strategies and standards that need to be implemented. International companies can help Indian clients in protecting their assets by performing comprehensive security risk assessment services and designing and implementing security solutions to minimize the risks. India is rich in manpower. An intelligent mix of technology and physical security should, therefore, provide for an ideal security cover plan. One of the critical areas that needs to be overcome, strategically is the belief, amongst many, that the “worst will not happen to us,” and therefore, corporations often earmark very small budgets for security. The responsibility for security also, at times, gets relegated solely to the security officer, without creating adequate “security awareness” amongst all employees and staff. Therefore, companies would need to address the necessity of a sound and fool proof security plan, which should integrate technology, physical solutions and security manpower. Their plans should cover the following:

  1. Risk assessment and security audits.
  2. Security system design.
  3. Assets protection.
  4. Guard force training and management.
  5. Communications network.
  6. Liaison and coordination.
  7. Contingency planning and emergency responses.

Another area that is assuming significance is the “Global Supply Chain” in view of the liberalization of trade barriers. Transporting from one location in the world to another requires an assessment of transportation security needs, built around a system that minimizes risks. There is a need therefore, to devise measures to counter piracy, thwart illegal fishing and sea mining, and neutralize other activities, that work against supply chain safety in the air, ground or at sea.

How can the private sector and the government coordinate in the area of corporate security?

Looking at the nature of the threat that presently abounds India and the corporate world, it would be impossible for the Government of India to meet this challenge by itself. The private sector, therefore, needs to build its own safeguards. Areas of cooperation and coordination are as under:

  1. Collation and sharing of intelligence in which government bodies, local bodies and citizens play an important role.
  2. Involving citizens and organisations in their own safety and security. Each Corporate should invest in the corporate security awareness programme, including cyber security.
  3. Regular coordination amongst government agencies and the corporate in the handling and management of disaster schemes. These need to be practised and “grey areas” rectified.
  4. Setting minimum security standards for all public areas, establishments, colonies, housing etc. that are mandatory by law.
  5. Investment by public and private sectors in state of the art technology and manpower training.

What can companies do to assess and manage risk?

All companies must carryout a threat and risk assessment for their establishments.  These should preferably be carried out by professionals who are trained and experienced in the same. The location, the design of the establishment, the profile of the employees and guests, the image of it’s brand, the probability of success of attack, the media coverage such an attack would create, are all factors that the assessment would cover. Counter measures, as recommended need to be implemented after necessary budgeting. More importantly, companies need to take adequate and foolproof precautions against the outbreak of fire and sabotage on its premises. Business Continuity Plans, to include back up of essential data, must be catered for. Cyber security often gets neglected and needs to be implemented with far more emphasis. It is essential to carryout staff, employee and vendor verifications. Above all, awareness and training in security and safety measures must be carried out. 

What weakness do you see in the manner in which Security and Safety Measures are being implemented

Modern Technology is a great asset in detection and assessment—however, it will always be the Man behind the machine that will count. Companies need to invest in awareness and training of their manpower, so that the responses to a criticality are correct, timely and measured. Security and safety measures should be implemented effectively, and above all should be of concern and focus of the top management. Adequate budgets must be earmarked for countering priority threats and risk. An integration of modern technology, physical solutions and well trained manpower is the answer.       

Interview by Jessica Livingston

Defence IQ Press Contributor:   Defence IQ Press

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