Mumbai 26/11 — Have the hotels learnt a lesson?

This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Del­hi-India

Defence and Security Alert (DSA

166 peo­ple were killed in the twin attacks on the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Tri­dent Oberoi Mum­bai. There were twin bomb­ings in Jakar­ta Hotels name­ly Ritz Carl­ton and Mar­riott. Sui­cide bombers killed 8 per­sons and maimed 50. The 26/11 ter­ror­ist attack on the two Mum­bai Hotels — The Taj and The Oberoi Tri­dent was major­ly respon­si­ble for expos­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try to such mali­cious man-made attacks. But has the inci­dent changed the per­cep­tion of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor regard­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to such attacks and secu­ri­ty inci­dents? The writer takes stock of secu­ri­ty enhance­ment in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor, which has in recent times become a prime tar­get of ter­ror­ist attacks and laments the atti­tude of try­ing to do the bare min­i­mum essen­tial to meet reg­u­la­to­ry require­ments.

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Hotel secu­ri­ty in India is def­i­nite­ly in a state of high alert. A vis­it to the Taj Mahal Hotel will make you aware of how the hotel has become a fortress. Oberoi Tri­dent, which we hap­pened to vis­it in Jan­u­ary 2011, appeared to have tak­en steps to ame­lio­rate upon the secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance sys­tems. The 26/11 attack has changed the per­cep­tion of secu­ri­ty in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor.

166 peo­ple were killed in the twin attacks on Taj Mahal Hotel and Tri­dent Oberoi. There were twin bomb­ings in Jakar­ta Hotels name­ly Ritz Carl­ton and Mar­riott. Sui­cide bombers killed 8 per­sons and maimed 50.

The 26/11 ter­ror­ist attack on the two Mum­bai Hotels – Hotel Taj and Hotel Oberoi Tri­dent was major­ly respon­si­ble for expos­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try to such mali­cious man-made attacks. The inci­dent gar­nered glob­al atten­tion as coun­tries across the globe con­demned the inci­dent. It took a while for the two hotels to refur­bish their premis­es and resume their oper­a­tions. But has the inci­dent changed the per­cep­tion of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor regard­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to such attacks and secu­ri­ty inci­dents?

I was recent­ly stay­ing at Hotel Keys in Thiru­vanan­tha­pu­ram and was amazed at the secu­ri­ty arrange­ments in the hotel. Instead of a key, the hotel gave me an access card. This card had to be insert­ed into a slot in the lift — only when the green light blinked could one press the floor num­ber on the lift. The access card had to be insert­ed into a slot inside the room to get the pow­er con­nec­tion into the room. An inter­est­ing aspect was that the instruc­tions about fire safe­ty were cogent — par­tic­u­lar­ly the sug­ges­tion to crawl at the time of fire to avoid get­ting suf­fo­cat­ed from smoke. This was a rev­e­la­tion.

The hotel was built post 26/11. The guest man­ag­er admit­ted that the 26/11 inci­dent did push them to look at the secu­ri­ty aspects in the design more force­ful­ly. Hotel La Mar­vel­la at Jayana­gar, Ban­ga­lore has built a state-of-the-art facil­i­ty where the cus­tomer is spoilt for choice by way of state-of-the-art mod­ern secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance sys­tems. Not just that, the hotel seems to be a per­fect blend of aes­thet­ics and secu­ri­ty.

Mum­bai 26/11

Gad­gets like CCTV Sur­veil­lance should serve as proac­tive tools to avoid a dis­as­ter but in real­i­ty, their usage is more reac­tive — to help the police nab the crim­i­nals.

Mod­ern day crim­i­nal ele­ments do not seem to con­sid­er gad­gets like CCTV as a deter­rent. The per­son who warned peo­ple in VT sta­tion not to pro­ceed in the direc­tion where the ter­ror­ist Kasab was sta­tioned did dis­play tremen­dous pres­ence of mind that helped save lives. Tech­nol­o­gy may have advanced a lot, but nobody can dis­miss the impor­tance of human ele­ment in avert­ing such inci­dents.

The 26/11 ter­ror­ist attack on the two Mum­bai Hotels — Hotel Taj and Hotel Oberoi Tri­dent was major­ly respon­si­ble for expos­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try to such mali­cious man-made attacks. The inci­dent gar­nered glob­al atten­tion as coun­tries across the globe con­demned the inci­dent. It took a while for the two hotels to refur­bish their premis­es and resume their oper­a­tions. But has the inci­dent changed the per­cep­tion of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor regard­ing their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to such attacks and secu­ri­ty inci­dents?

Per­ci­val Edward, a secu­ri­ty expert based in Ban­ga­lore says that the actions tak­en by hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor post 26/11 were more of knee-jerk reac­tions. Installing secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance sys­tems is not enough. Installing effac­tive secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance sys­tems cou­pled with cre­at­ing aware­ness among the hotel staff by way of inten­sive train­ing is what is need­ed. Design aspects deserve greater atten­tion. Anoth­er secu­ri­ty expert says that some of the hotels try to cut cor­ners by installing less­er num­ber of cam­eras than what is required. Much less atten­tion is paid towards minor details like posi­tion of the cam­eras, the cap­tur­ing and stor­age of images, train­ing, retrieval of images, cap­tur­ing mov­ing objects with excel­lent pre­ci­sion and installing cam­eras in com­mon areas like lob­bies, recep­tion etc.

Though both Taj and Oberoi Tri­dent have tak­en strin­gent mea­sures to restore their premis­es and beef up the secu­ri­ty, the same can­not be said about the oth­er mem­bers in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor in India. Fire safe­ty and secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance must go beyond the need to “com­ply”.

We are a very com­pli­ance ori­ent­ed nation. We wear hel­mets while dri­ving a two-wheel­er because there is a penal­ty if we do not wear it. Very few wear hel­mets because they are safe. In a like­wise man­ner, the hotels should build fire safe­ty and secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance as hygiene fac­tors in their oper­a­tions. It is not enough to do some­thing to meet codes and stan­dards or to get a “No-objec­tion” cer­tifi­cate from the fire depart­ment author­i­ties or the munic­i­pal author­i­ties.

Worse is the fact that hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor does not believe in reg­u­lar annu­al main­te­nance con­tracts with the ser­vice providers. Says Chetan Nagap­pa who works for a secu­ri­ty organ­i­sa­tion, “At the end of the day every­thing boils down to cost. The hotel author­i­ties will remem­ber the ser­vice providers only when there is a prob­lem; they are so intent on tight­en­ing their purse strings on mat­ters relat­ed to safe­ty and secu­ri­ty that this atti­tude shocks us”.

The hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor should look at the con­se­quences in the after­math of an acci­dent. How will it impact their brand? How long will it take to rebuild the hotel in case of prop­er­ty dam­age? Glob­al insur­ance com­pa­nies like FM Glob­al do talk about resilience — the abil­i­ty to bring back a dam­aged prop­er­ty back to shape, but in India, the insur­ance com­pa­nies seem to be more con­cerned about loss­es and claims. Our ques­tion is — why not look at pre­ven­tion through robust risk man­age­ment and pru­dent under­writ­ing norms?

The sit­u­a­tion in some of the less­er known sec­ond rung hotels is even more alarm­ing. It doesn’t help that there is not a sin­gle des­ig­nat­ed author­i­ty to con­duct peri­od­ic checks or audits. One is not sure if hotels have a dis­as­ter response plan in place.

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Nagesh, a secu­ri­ty expert based in Ban­ga­lore, feels that there are very few peo­ple who have realised the need to make their prop­er­ties fail-safe or secu­ri­ty safe. He agrees that there are lim­i­ta­tions that the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor faces in terms of fool­proof secu­ri­ty mea­sures. Secu­ri­ty has always been on top of the agen­da in the 5‑star and high­end hotels, but the 26/11 inci­dent has made them realise the impor­tance of main­te­nance.

The mid-range and low­er end hotels install CCTVs only to com­ply with reg­u­la­to­ry norms. He even adds that most of the 5‑star hotels are not aware of what they exact­ly need. So, the think­ing of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor has to change

Nagesh regrets that oth­er than these top-end hotels, the efforts of the mid-range and low­er range hotels in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor to improve the secu­ri­ty mea­sures are only for name­sake. Wind­sor Manor hotel in Ban­ga­lore refur­bished their secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance post the 26/11 inci­dent. He says that ear­li­er hotels neglect­ed main­te­nance but after 26/11 they have realised that main­te­nance is impor­tant too.

Accord­ing to Nagesh, the mid-range and low­er-end hotels install CCTVs only to com­ply with reg­u­la­to­ry norms. He even adds that most of the 5‑star hotels are not aware of what they exact­ly need. So, the think­ing of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor has to change. The think­ing should not be restrict­ed to look­ing at the cri­te­ria required or meet­ing the norms. The need to install secu­ri­ty sys­tems under pres­sure from Fire Depart­ment or legal cell should be replaced with the need to enhance secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance to take care of their employ­ees, guests, their prop­er­ties and also the sur­round­ing prop­er­ties. The build­ings adja­cent to such hotels are also sub­ject to col­lat­er­al risks. This can­not be ignored.

Rein­sur­ance and ter­ror­ism pool

It is strange that the 26/11 inci­dent has not made the Gov­ern­ment or the Home Min­istry announce broad guide­lines about secu­ri­ty to the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor. More so, when the Gov­ern­ment knows that the ter­ror­ism pool man­aged by GIC Re paid a loss of Rs. 400 crores to the affect­ed par­ties after the 26/11 inci­dent. It is strange that even insur­ance com­pa­nies haven’t done much in this area to press for a manda­to­ry guide­line in all hotels. The insur­ance sec­tor seems to have con­soled them­selves to the fact that — of the loss that was paid, Rs. 300 crores was recov­ered through rein­sur­ance. I feel this sort of think­ing needs to be eschewed. Imag­ine a large coun­try like ours with so many mouths and hun­gry stom­achs to feed spend­ing crores of rupees on pay­ing insur­ance claims for five star hotels.

Just imag­ine, the cost of set­ting up an appro­pri­ate safe­ty and secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance in a lux­u­ry 5‑star hotel won’t even be 1 per cent of the claim amount paid by GIC Re from the ter­ror­ism pool. Yet, the reac­tion of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor in the after­math of the 26/11 inci­dent con­tin­ues to be luke­warm.

While some hotels are using the tags of “Eco­tel” hotel, “Green Hotel” as a means of enhanc­ing their brand equi­ty, it is inscrutable that they do not bandy about safe­ty or secu­ri­ty as a com­po­nent of their brand. While no one expects them to divulge the inter­nal details of what they have done in terms of upgrad­ing their secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance, at the min­i­mum, some state­ments from some of the big play­ers in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor would have trig­gered actions from the sleep­ing mem­bers of the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor. I am sure that this is not a tall order.

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

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