With concern running high, planners are making sure that the hotels they book have increased their security. Have they installed closed-circuit TV systems? Do they have a relationship with local law-enforcement agencies?
The Peninsula in New York City, for example, began a positive identification program after 9/11, in which guests must fax a photo ID when they make their reservations. When they check in, the picture is checked as well.
But some experts say the most important question is whether the hotel you're considering has invested in programs to enhance employee awareness.
“Many hotels have hired extra security guards since September 11, and that's a good thing, but you have to remember that they only see the lobby and corridors,” says Ray Ellis, a veteran hotel-security expert and professor of loss prevention management at the University of Houston's Conrad N. Hilton College. “Make sure in-room staff, such as housekeeping, maintenance, and room-service workers, are trained to report suspicious objects found in guest rooms.”
Fred Prassack, director of security and safety at the Peabody Orlando, Fla. (and a member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Loss Prevention Committee), says his hotel has implemented such a training program. “We tell them [staff] that we'd rather respond to 100 false alarms than miss one that might be a problem. Now when they see a piece of luggage left in the lobby or a hallway, they report it to security, whereas they used to just take it to lost and found.”
According to a recent report in Lodging magazine, Marriott is also examining standards and best practices companywide since the attacks, including how best to deal with family members of guests at the hotel after any such attack — something it had not done before.