Motels and hotels nationwide could see improved security following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 58 dead and more than 500 injured Sunday evening..
Authorities continue to investigate how a lone gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, perched on the 32nd floor of a tony hotel, killed and injured concert-goers gathered in a large public space below.
Concerned about copycats, the hotel and security industries will likely train and retrain their employees to keep a sharper watch on guests, according to specialists in the field.
Could the incident mean checking into a hotel will be forever changed just as 9-11 did to air travel? That just might happen, if reports are an indication.
Some hotels are now having security guards use wands to check guests for metal objects. Guests’ bags were also being inspected upon entering the the Wynn resort in Las Vegas, the day after the shooting, Bloomberg News reported.
The security issue is an important one for Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, too, given the large number of tourists and business travelers who visit the cities year-round. Both cities have popular public spaces such as the National Mall in Washington and the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, which host well-attended events, and could be more at risk for violent incidents. In a few weeks Baltimore’s Running Festival will hit the streets where more than 100,000 people are expected to attend.
“Though this was a random act of crime, its magnitude of killing was unprecedented,” Larry Yu, a professor of hospitality management at George Washington University, told SmartCEO, about the Las Vegas tragedy. “It clearly raised the level of security in hotel management priorities. Moving forward, hotel operations need to balance guest comfort/experience and security concerns. I believe effective security for hotels can be achieved by well-prepared management and better trained employees who embed security in daily operations.”
Yu predicts that hotel management will review and update security plans to address and prevent the risk of a shooting spree from reoccurring.
A priority, Yu says, will be increased awareness by employees—who have contact with guests, such as desk clerks, housekeeping staff, etc. – to be on the watch for suspicious or unusual behavior or objects. For example, 10 pieces of luggage were reportedly found at the shooter’s suite in the Mandalay Bay Resort – presumably used to carry weapons and rounds of ammunition.
Professionals speculate an X-ray machine could be used to screen luggage at hotel entrances, or guests could be required to walk through through metal detectors or be scanned by hand-held wands.
“I could see some hotels and motels changing their security to include a more in-depth check-in process,” adds Brad Duffy, a board member of the Baltimore-based National Council of Investigation and Security Services, Inc. “This may include criminal background screening for guests.”
“We may see hotels and motels that are within close distance to a large public event put added screening into place as well,” Duffy said.
There are drawbacks to some stepped-up security measures at hotels in the United States. These added measures may even deter some consumers from staying in these hotels/motels, Yu said.
“Guests will object to the physical search of their luggage and bags,” Yu said. “They would be more open for scanning machines to detect metal…. I don’t think hotels should hand search guest’s luggage. I also don’t think hotel employees are knowledgeable to recognize and handle banned items, except for highly trained security personnel. If they find … banned materials, then they need to report [that] to the police.”
Any attempt to regularly search guests’ rooms also causes concerns.
“This violates guest privacy,” Yu said. “Now the management needs to notify the guests if their belongings in the room have been examined or moved around when they are not in the room.”
Smaller hotels and motels may find such an initiative a financial burden, as well.
“The cost of machine purchases and maintenance, and added labor cost, would be [an] added burden to smaller motels/hotels,” Yu said.
Duffy warns it could lead to higher rates at motels/hotels, “and ultimately put some [hotels/motels] out of business.”
Moreover, Jeffrey Ian Ross, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Baltimore, said that hotels may undertake background checks on guests before they register for a room. Guests from outside the U.S. may be asked for their passports, as is done in Europe.
So guests do not grow impatient with any stepped-up security measures, which could lead to slower check-ins, hotel employees will need to explain to them that security measures “are for everyone’s security,” Ross said.
Guests also may tolerate security precautions that do not negatively impact their experience at the hotel. Few, for instance, complain about the widespread presence of security cameras currently found throughout hotels.
Yu also does not want more rigorous security requirements mandated by government officials. “Right now, I think the issue of increased security should be left to the owners, hotel companies and brands — to step up security measures by management,” Yu said.
In a statement released after the Las Vegas shooting, Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel & Lodging Association, said that, “as a business that is centered on serving the public, no issue is more important than safety and security.”
“Hotels have safety and security procedures in place that are regularly reviewed, tested and updated as are their emergency response procedures,” she added. “As we better understand the facts in the coming days, we will continue to work with law enforcement to evaluate these measures.”