How safe is your hotel?

By Yeru Ebuen — Maryam Vailoces worked for over three years in the hotel industry. Although working in a different field now, it didn’t diminish her capacity to assess whether a hotel is equipped to handle certain safety situations. The things she learned over the years about the hotel industry has helped her to be vigilant in making the right choices on which hotel to stay whenever she travels. “People are getting more mobile these days,” she said.  “Many assumed that popularity equals safety but it’s not always the case. For people who loves to travel, with many safety risks just waiting to happen, it helps to pay attention on what certifications your hotel has,” she added.
“The reality on the ground is this, whichever part of the world you are in, safety risks are always there. They take different forms. They can be environmental, political or terrorist-driven. It’s hard to control these kinds of things and you can’t expect hotels to stop them from happening. What you can do is make sure that your hotel has preventive measures or if they do happen, the hotel has the right people, tools and initiatives to get you to safety,” she explained.
Asked for a few tips on what to look for exactly when booking a hotel, she shared that information about hotel security features should be available online.
“You have to check if the hotel is equipped with CCTV cameras. If the location of the hotel is ideal and has multiple exits in cases of incidents. You also have to pay attention on how online booking is made and how your personal information is handled. It also helps to know the general consensus by going through feedbacks of other guests shared on different review sites. Hotel certifications are also a big plus,” she said.


International certification
Nuno Neves moved to Oman six months back. He has been to different parts of the world — to his last count, in over 30 countries. He has served in different departments of the hotel industry. Currently, he is the Cluster General Manager for Park Inn by Radisson Muscat.
“Most people, what they know is that there is an ongoing safety and security threat wherever in the world you are. Not many know that hotels are being internationally certified for safety and security. These hotels undergo strict auditing for safety and security,” he shared.
He added, “Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has been keeping track of what’s going on in the world. Besides making revenues, besides attracting new customers, besides working to bringing new experiences to guests we always make sure to pay close attention to safety.”
The hotel Neves oversees is the first certified hotel in Oman that received the Safehotel Premium Level certification. It got the certification in 2015 and has been re-certified this year.
Neves explained that this means, the hotel “has been recognised as audited and certified in accordance with The Global Hotel Security Standard© of Safehotels Alliance AB.”
Founded in Sweden in 2001, Safehotels Alliance AB is an international certification company that independently verifies, awards, recognises and certifies consistent safety and security systems. Its Global Hotel Security Standard was established and developed with the help of a network of travel, tourism and hotel industry experts and the assessments are based on 200+ individual standard elements.
The certification programme covers different criteria including security equipment, staff awareness and training, fire security, and first aid. There are also three levels of certification: Safehotels Certificate, Safehotels Executive and Safehotels Premium Certificate.
Neves explained, “Safety and security has always been under the supervision and responsibility of the hotel business. When we talk about security and safety, this does not mean making the hotel army-based. No. What we are prioritising here is the prevention for anything untoward to happen. The operative word is prevention — from terrorism, against virus etc. If anything happens today, we have prevention measures in place.”
Neves clarified, “Being a hotel does not necessarily mean you get the international certification right away. To get it, a hotel has to be well-structured, well-organised in terms of almost all aspects — from the engineering, to the security team even the staff and management.”
Ahmad Daghmash, Hotel Manager of Park Inn Duqm, who has been in Oman for 10 years and has prior hotel experience in Jordan and the UAE, explained, “In terms of safety and security, in Oman, there are no great threats so far. Threat assessments are done by local agencies.  We keep close coordination with them and we know when threat levels are being raised.”
He added, “Our headquarters, for sign of any threat, also cascades information to us. We contract different agencies to alert us of anything safety-related. When you have threats, we increase the security of the hotel.”


The extra mile
“One thing we have to understand is that hotels need to be certified for security and safety by local agencies.  For instance, the building and facilities had to pass inspection and standards set forth by the Royal Oman Police, the Fire Department among other agencies. Hotels has to be certified by the local laws,” Daghmash said.
“But what we did is go the extra mile. By getting the international certification, it could relieve some doubts from our clients.,” he added.
“Safety and security are a concern for everybody. Before you go somewhere, especially the Middle East, the first thing you check is — ‘How is the situation?’ This certification is communicating to potential guests and clients that the hotel is a certified hotel for safety by all standards — the local standards and the international standards,” Daghmash said.
“The core business of hotels is to sell rooms. But it is also our obligation, it is our commitment towards our guests and employees to safeguard our properties in terms of security and safety. Threat has always been a concern and having an internationally and globally recognised certification can help put the minds of guests at ease that they are being cared for,” Neves said.
“Each hotel has developed their own security and safety procedures. Getting international security certifications — whether for health or safety — it’s a plus.  In my opinion, because I always think of the future, I think hotels should strive to be certified internationally. People nowadays, before they travel, if they’ve never been to a particular country, they ask their friends or they go to Google to read opinions about the place, the city and the hotel they’ve book. They look for as many guarantees as possible — in terms of good service, good welcome, and if possible as well, a good security system,” he said.
“Nothing is intangible or unbreakable. There is no magic solution to not having incidents. But at least you can start somewhere,” he said.