Report: U.S. Hotel Security Varies Widely
New research from Cornell University finds size, class of hotel often determine security and safety levels
By Joan Goodchild , Senior Editor
August 24, 2009 — CSO —
Road warriors who travel frequently for business have likely seen a wide disparity when it comes to hotel quality. Soft sheets and accommodating staff may be the most noticeable factors, but what about safety and security? A new hotel management research study from Cornell's Center for Hospitality Research finds that safety and security equipment in U.S. hotels varies dramatically by size, location, and overall hotel class (For more on hotel W-Fi security, check out Dan Lohrman's blog post on the topic).
The study, titled "Safety and Security in U.S. Hotels," was conducted by Cornell Professor Cathy A. Enz. Enz concludes that gaps in security and safety equipment are most evident in small hotels, or those with less than 50 rooms, as well as budget-priced hotels, and relatively old hotels. However, luxury and upscale hotels, airport and urban hotels, large properties, and new hotels generally provided the key safety and security features (See also: How to Design Green AND Secure Buildings).
The research looked at 5,487 U.S. hotels and developed a separate safety and security score for each hotel based on the number of features it offered. The safety index included sprinklers and smoke-free rooms, while the security features involve electronic locks, interior corridors, and an in-room safe. Safety materials, a safety video, and security cameras contributed points to both index scores.
The results reveal that hotels considered luxury properties had a mean score of 82 percent on the security index while economy-class hotels score only 50 percent. When examined by location, urban, suburban and airport hotels all scored 75 percent or higher for security. Resort hotels, along with interstate-located and metro-area hotels all had scores under 66 percent.
"Hotels, on average, score 60 percent or better on the safety and security features indexes we devised," said Enz. "Eleven percent of the hotels studied had perfect security scores, while most fared slightly better in safety rankings, with 19 percent having a perfect score."
Enz's hotel management research distinguished safety as meaning protection of a guest's person, while security additionally involves protection of a guest's property. The report points to the attacks on hotels in Jakarta in July as another reminder of the vulnerability of hotels to potential safety and security threats and notes the continuous flow of people in and out of a hotel makes it a "soft target" for harm, and poses a challenge to the property's security and to the safety of the people in that hotel.
"Preserving customer service standards and ensuring safety in the quasi-public spaces of hotel buildings is challenging since it is often difficult to distinguish among guests, legitimate visitors, and people who are potential threats. Moreover, hoteliers find it awkward to maintain the highest possible standards of safety while preserving a hotels' hospitable and welcoming image," the report states.
Read more about physical security in CSOonline's Physical Security section.
Other stories by Joan Goodchild