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After Vegas, should hotels have metal detectors?

Lori Weisberg, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Travel News

In the case of Paddock, part of his meticulous planning leading up to the shooting was to leave a "Do not disturb" sign on his door for several days.

That kind of behavior, though, can arouse suspicions, and hotel operators do have the right to check in on their guests, said Rauch and Sanderlin.

"We generally have a policy if it goes on for more than a couple of days, we want to double check on the guest because people can get into medical situations," Sanderlin said. "We would rather risk having a guest be a little upset than not being aware they need help. It can be as simple as a quick check in the room."

Operators of some of San Diego's high-rise hotels were reluctant to talk specifically about security precautions, referring questions to their corporate offices.

Matt Adams, general manager of the 1,625-room Manchester Grand Hyatt on the San Diego bayfront, offered the following statement from Hyatt:

"Following the tragic event in Las Vegas, we are reviewing safety and security procedures with our corporate security team and local law enforcement. These reviews include how hotel properties can both further improve security and effectively respond to events. And, as we better understand the facts in the coming days, we will continue to work with law enforcement to evaluate these measures."

Part of the challenge faced by hotels, large and small, is they're considered a "soft target," military parlance for being vulnerable to attack. To effectively place them under lock and key would run counter to the welcoming environment that is the hallmark of hotels, say lodging experts.

Globally, it is not uncommon to see stepped-up hotel security in countries where hotels have been targeted. Following the 2008 terrorist bombing of two hotels in Mumbai, some major hotel chains throughout the country implemented much more intense screening systems such as handheld trace detectors and X-ray scanners to check for explosives and contraband.

In the near term, it's doubtful U.S. hotels will move in that direction, said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of STR, which tracks hotel data.


"This is the first event of this size where a U.S. hotel was involved," Freitag said. "I think there will be a lot more done at the back end of hotels, like investing more training in staff who have guest interaction, such as bellhops, the front desk, housekeeping.

"Of course, it's still too early to know what will change but scanning (luggage), I don't think we're there yet. A more visible security presence and training of staff is the first step."

San Diego State school of hospitality dean Carl Winston says he is highly doubtful hotel security will ever approach the levels common in U.S. airports. That doesn't mean, though, that hotel companies across the country are not seriously examining what can be improved, beyond hiring more security guards and increasing video surveillance.

"I know there are conversations going on in boardrooms across the country, where they're saying, 'Oh man, we need to look at our security,' but crossing the line into the kind of security we have in airports is probably not in the cards for the near term," said Winston, founding director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management.

"I could see a need for it in Washington, D.C., hotels that have congressional visitors but if it's a roadside inn in Temecula (Calif.), I don't know that I need it."

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