Better Safe Than Sorry
Given their porous perimeters, managing security of beachfront resorts can be daunting. It can be best achieved with the perfect symmetry of technology and personnel management
By Vinita Bhatia
26th November, 2008 â€“ it is a day that few Indians can forget. It was when 10 men stormed into Mumbai and held the city at ransom for three days, wrecking havoc and killing innocent people at the most supposedly safe places â€“ hospitals, train stations, restaurants and upscale hotels. People from the hospitality industry watched in shock and despair when the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotelâ€™s dome was engulfed in fire and the sound of gunfire ratcheted through the luxurious Oberoi-Trident; both home to a large number of foreign tourists. It made them realise how susceptible even the best hotels are when it comes to security threats, since these are frequented by high-profile guests. It also drove home the fact that they needed to invest in the best-of-breed surveillance and safety measures to prevent another repeat of this tragedy. And that is how the juggernaut for keeping their guests safe began in earnest. Of course, the catastrophe, where many hotel personnel also lost their lives â€“ many whilst saving in-house guests â€“ also compelled hoteliers across the board to put in place extra checks to ensure the safety of their employees, even at the cost of profit.
SECURITY ABOVE ALL ELSE
The security protocols for city-based hotels are very distinct from those of holiday resorts or hotels located at beachfronts, given the profile of guests who check in there. In fact, deploying security measures at the latter is more challenging because these properties are usually bigger than city hotels and also have porous perimeters. Like Shridhar Nair, GM of The Leela Goa, pointed out, these are often located in areas that are not very accessible and have multiple entry points, unlike a city-based hotel, which typically has an entry point each for guests and for the staff. â€śOne of the biggest challenges from a security perspective in a resort is to ensure that the fencing and perimeters are well-guarded. Our 75-acre resort is bordered by the sea on one side and the river on the other, making fencing is impractical. So, we employ 80 security people and the best technology for 24×7 surveillance,â€ť he stated. He added that there is no exact science to arrive at the personnel to technology ratio when it comes to surveillance; it varies from property to property. While the Hotel Leela Goa operates on the ratio of one security personnel per acre, for others it could depend on the size of the resort and the number of access points that need to be covered.
THE HUMAN TOUCH
It always helps if hotels have a well-drafted security policy that outlines the processes and procedures to be followed under varied situations. Ideally, this draft policy should be modified regularly because the security landscape changes and so do the response to it. But while we live in the golden age of technology and processes, let us not forget about the humaneness of the human touch â€“ especially in environs where guests check in for some down time. It is, therefore, important that the security staffs is equipped with requisite soft skills to deal with them and explain why they should not venture into some areas, politely and firmly. â€śAt our resort, we have guests who might have a drink too many and then want to go to the beach. We have security staffers, who apart from guarding the access to the resort through the beach, are also responsible for making sure that there are no untoward
incidents with guests in the sea,â€ť explained Nair. This approach works as a combination of pre-emptive precaution, and when that fails, proactive response in the interest of the guest safety.
TAKING SPECIAL PRECAUTIONS
Whenever the resort is expected to host a high-profile event, it is advisable to plan the security detailing well in advance. If it involves state heads, their security agencies will have their own protocol that will have to be adhered to uncompromisingly. Additionally, it is best to factor in extra precautions for the benefit of guests participating in the event, as well as the staff. The Leela Goa Hotel learned this when it hosted the BRICS-BIMSTEC joint summit in 2016, which was attended by 11 heads of state. It underwent several audits from government intelligence and security agencies, and also had to upgrade its safety infrastructure to bring it up to speed with the security requirements of these agencies. â€śWe installed almost 1000 CCTV cameras, and applied and received the permission from the government to use drones for surveillance. We had watch towers on the perimeter of the property and fenced a large portion of the perimeter to restrict as much access as possible through guarded areas. Upgrading our security infrastructure significantly due to the BRICS-BIMSTEC summit also gave us great opportunity to push up our safety standards to international levels,â€ť Nair stated. Other hotels can take a leaf from Hotel Leela Goaâ€™s page and learn from how to accentuate their security arrangement based on from various events they keep organising â€“ every step goes a long way.
WHOâ€™LL GUARD THE GUARDS?
Many hotels, including resorts, outsource the security staff since it is far more cost-efficient, and then give them some basic training. While this is the industry norm, what is required is proper screening of these candidates carefully and then creating customised training programs for them. â€śWhile we hire trained security workers from Group4S, we ensure they are given three months of training at the resort with our in-house training team on guest contact, communication, body language and our the guest service philosophy,â€ť Nair explained. The Leela Goa prefers working with a single entity for
sourcing these talent than multiples suppliers and it also has fixed security positioning and manpower allocations that do not fluctuate based on seasonal requirements. It also ensures that the recruited and trained people work with them for at least two years, which literally makes them Leela employees. â€śObviously, before selecting them, we do a lot of background checks rather than only leaving it to Group4S to do the background, so we independently do a lot of background checks. Of the 80 security personnel that we have, 30 are employed by us directly on our payrolls, and have been working with us for many yearsâ€ť Nair added. What Nair tried to underline is that the talent contracting should not be done only for cost purposes; it should be done to done because of any agencyâ€™s competency to find the right profile of trained personnel. Ultimately, when it comes to security, prevention is always better than cure and the way to achieve this is adopting the path of deterrence. Employing the right mix of technology and people can help resorts in dealing with any situational exigencies that will nevertheless occur.