Ahead of the IMEX America show, one of the largest trade shows about the convention business in the world, a spokesman for the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas responded to my query regarding hotel security for the event with reassuring words but, for obvious reasons, did not get specific about what additional measures would be undertaken a week after the shooting, perhaps the worst hotel security breach to ever occur in America.

Yes, the show in Las Vegas must go on, but what’s also very obvious, not without questions from meeting planners.

A study conducted by the University of Nevada Las Vegas of meeting planners, showed 79% of the respondents cited safety and security as one of the most important factors when selecting a hotel (Hilliard, T.H. and Baloglu, S. (2008). “Safety and Security as Part of the Hotel Servicescape for Meeting Planners”, Journal of Convention & Event Tourism, 9:1, 15-34).

Have they taken all precautions? Have they invested in safety and security? Is there a 24-hour uniformed security guard?

It’s not just meeting planners who are asking these questions. Guests want to know more about a hotel’s safety and security. A study of 153 travelers in Hong Kong SAR undertaken by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University said that the most important safety and security features hotel guests mention include closed-circuit television systems (CCTV) for hotel public areas, public address systems with multi-language announcements for emergencies and safety and security training for hotel staff.

For the hotel industry, there are currently no international or independent standards for guest safety and security adopted across the industry. Each chain, hotel group or individual facility is left to its own competitive instincts.

Studies show that meeting planners are willing to pay extra for a sense of security, and hoteliers should know they can recoup their investments.

According to another study, The Physical Safety and Security Features of U.S. Hotels, led by Dr. Cathy Enz, a Cornell hospitality professor, “Overall luxury and upscale hotels, newer hotels, larger hotels, and those located in urban and airport locations recorded the highest scores for safety and security.”

To date, reads a hotel safety bulletin issued by the Safehotels Alliance, an industry association that is attempting to speed the adoption of its hotel safety and security program and certification, “Many hotel companies and hotels seem comfortable with the ‘low probability’ part of the risk equation whilst being underprepared or under-resourced for the ‘high impact’ part.”

In the same report, they predict market change will be coming.

“This is similar to, say, a hotel restaurant striving for Michelin stars or Rosettes, or demonstrating sustainability and environmental credentials by going for a ‘Green Award’.” It will “…raise awareness for hotels and resorts actively using safety and security as a confirmation of best practice and industry consistent standards, transforming into a marketing tool.”

This transformation has already gained traction in Europe and the Middle East but has been slow to take place in the United States judging by a list of the group’s members. However, in light of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, I’m sure our industry will rethink this.

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