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

Dhar­mara­jan G a senior cit­i­zen based in Mum­bai how­ev­er begs to dif­fer from Nagesh. As a free­lance HR advi­sor and con­sul­tant, Mr Dhar­mara­jan G attends meet­ings in hotels in Mum­bai and he feels that hotels are tak­ing actions post 26/11 by installing CCTVs and man­u­al frisk­ing. He says, “The hotels install CCTV devices as a deter­rent to mali­cious attacks by anti-social ele­ments. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the cul­prits seem to know that the hotels do not main­tain the sys­tems well.” He sole­ly blames the 24x7 tele­vi­sion chan­nels for triv­i­al­is­ing and sen­sa­tion­al­is­ing del­i­cate intel­li­gence issues dur­ing 26/11 when the ter­ror­ists were holed up in the Taj Mahal Hotel. Such minute by minute account only served to feed the ter­ror­ists and their asso­ciates with infor­ma­tion about the actions tak­en by the police.”If the tele­vi­sion chan­nels had exer­cised some restraint then more lives could have been saved”, he says.

Ramesh Ved, a char­tered accoun­tant in Mum­bai says that since 2001 when the twin tow­ers were attacked, there has been no such inci­dent in US. But in India, such inci­dents have become reg­u­lar affairs. Take for instance — in the 26/11 inci­dent, the Taj Mahal Hotel was like a maze for the police force but for the ter­ror­ists? How did they get in? Is this pos­si­ble with­out inter­nal sup­port? There is more to this than just a secu­ri­ty lapse. The entry points and exit points in Taj are one too many. Stew­ards, cooks, dri­vers — who will check the integri­ty of these peo­ple?

Ter­ror­ists involved in the Taj Mahal Hotel attack seemed to have done a thor­ough rec­ce. They worked with such clock­work pre­ci­sion that they would have put the best project plan­ners to shame. Is this pos­si­ble with­out the involve­ment of insid­ers? Hotel’s ties with exter­nal secu­ri­ty forces (out­sourced) need to be checked.

Thus, the hotels need to engage spe­cial staff for CCTV mon­i­tor­ing if they have not done so already. The hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try also shies away from strin­gent mea­sures as they feel that it can be a cause of dis­com­fort to their guests. But is this fair?


Ter­ror­ism risk has raced past tra­di­tion­al theft and fire risks in the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor.

The Gov­ern­ment of India needs to estab­lish a think tank to come up with cer­tain min­i­mum stan­dards that need to be ful­filled by the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor to upgrade their secu­ri­ty sys­tems. A strong reg­u­la­tion is a must to improve mat­ters.

The ter­ror­ism pool that GIC Re paid was Rs. 400 crores; the cost of secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance is not even a frac­tion of that. The Gov­ern­ment needs to do a seri­ous rethink. The hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor should be giv­en some sort of tax exemp­tions for using tech­nol­o­gy to improve secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance. This is very impor­tant to dri­ve growth in the busi­ness.

Home Min­istry needs to issue stan­dards for com­mer­cial build­ings includ­ing hotels. The Gov­ern­ment needs to appoint a state lev­el inde­pen­dent mon­i­tor­ing agency to check com­pli­ance. The hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor needs to focus on inte­grat­ed secu­ri­ty sys­tems. Tech­no­log­i­cal solu­tions must be easy to imple­ment — organ­i­sa­tions in secu­ri­ty space are well advised to remem­ber this. On the flip side, sys­tem inte­gra­tors pro­vide solu­tions from dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers — they find it dif­fi­cult to inte­grate var­i­ous sys­tems. But this can be cor­rect­ed.

As of now, the bal­ance between human inter­ven­tion and elec­tron­ic sur­veil­lance is more tilt­ed towards the lat­ter. This should change. A vig­i­lant staff is a great source of strength for the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor. The hotels need to upgrade their sys­tems and set aside a sep­a­rate bud­get for safe­ty and secu­ri­ty mea­sures.

The day is not far when lux­u­ry hotels or high-end hotels that do not val­ue safe­ty or secu­ri­ty will lose their mar­ket share. Hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor has to give high­er prece­dence for safe­ty and secu­ri­ty than wor­ry­ing about dis­com­fort to guests. Some more urgent actions that are need­ed are

  • Depute high tech secu­ri­ty per­son­nel in every sen­si­tive area of the hotel
  • Inspect ven­dors
  • Inspect trucks, vans, park­ing lots
  • Train all employ­ees
  • Relook at the out­sourced mod­el of phys­i­cal secu­ri­ty as this can present risk. An in-house secu­ri­ty offi­cer can also be employed
  • Effec­tive use of tech­nol­o­gy to min­imise dis­com­fort to guests
  • Man­u­al frisk­ing — body­guards of VIPs also should be sub­ject to this
  • Entry and exit points need to have elec­tron­ic secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance
  • Video ana­lyt­ics to be used for com­mon areas of hotels
  • Swift detec­tion of any unto­ward or sus­pi­cious move­ment must be made easy
  • Fin­ger print read­ers for high lev­el guests
  • Cor­ri­dors, floors, park­ing, lob­by areas, mul­ti­ple exits, stair cas­es, esca­la­tors, serv­er rooms, food stor­age areas, kitchen, laun­dry — these areas too need CCTV sur­veil­lance
  • Address proofs — pass­port, pan card, aad­har card and oth­er forms of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion must.
  • Restrict­ed access to pools and restau­rants

The 3 ele­ments of secu­ri­ty name­ly — Detec­tion, Deter­rence and Delay deserve a height­ened sense of impor­tance. Absence of Safe­ty and secu­ri­ty vig­i­lance can lead to loss of rep­u­ta­tion for the hos­pi­tal­i­ty sec­tor.

Inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies The good news is that inno­v­a­tive tech­nolo­gies are now avail­able to strength­en secu­ri­ty sur­veil­lance.

These are:

  • Sur­veil­lance cam­eras
  • Bio­met­ric sys­tems
  • Hi-sec doors
  • Secure air­lock
  • Full body scan­ners
  • Bag­gage scan
  • Met­al detec­tors
  • Access con­trol
  • Video sur­veil­lance
  • Intru­sion detec­tion
  • Xray machines

It is high time hos­pi­tal­i­ty indus­try in India starts mak­ing judi­cious use of these prod­ucts and tech­nolo­gies.

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

About the Author
Kalakad V Gana­p­a­thy — The writer is a free­lancer based in Ban­ga­lore. He has worked on projects cen­tred on Safe­ty, Qual­i­ty, 5S, Busi­ness Process Reengi­neer­ing, Integri­ty Man­age­ment, Tech­nol­o­gy Trends etc. and worked on “Rere­fined oil tech­nol­o­gy strat­e­gy,” has deliv­ered lec­tures in man­age­ment col­leges like S P Jain Glob­al (Sin­ga­pore), Somaiya Insti­tute of Man­age­ment Stud­ies, ITM-Mum­bai, Mum­bai Insti­tute of Man­age­ment, Insur­ance Insti­tute of India where he has taught sub­jects like Risk Man­age­ment, Insur­ance, Project Man­age­ment, Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment and Tech­nol­o­gy Man­age­ment.

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