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Hotels Need To Rethink Their Attitude Toward Security – And The Key To Doing So Is The Providers

By Scott Brothers, Executive Vice President Corporate Development at Oncam.

Security in the hospitality industry has never been more important. For many hoteliers – particularly the larger, branded chains – the role of security has fallen under a single management point – for example the Chief Security Officer (CSO). However, smaller independent businesses will often find that security roles are falling under the remit of general management or simply the owner. In both cases, the breadth of applications afforded by modern security technology is unlikely to be fully understood.

In partnership with The University of West London and Professor Alexandros Paraskevas Oncam commissioned a report – in the form of 22 interviews with senior hotel security executives from major hotel brands – into the status of the security technology needs of the hotel sector. The aim of this report was to understand the current status of the hotel sector, what steps can be taken to increase managerial understanding of the security technology and the benefits to both business and customer that come from it.

Our research has revealed that security is an oft neglected aspect of the hospitality trade for a number of reasons. Primarily, decisions on security technology are driven by cost and are the first thing to be outsourced. In larger hotels this means that the finance and purchasing teams will have a lot of clout when it comes to decision making, however, third parties will be used when it comes to implementation. In smaller establishments we can also assume finance is a priority consideration when it comes to investing in new security or technology.

The various stakeholders in the hospitality industry can cause issues in improving security and technology. One participant from our study stated that “[…] the GM’s still got to secure that capital investment from the owner and if the owner’s not willing to release those monies, it does become a bit of a battle”. In particular, legacy systems (those which have been installed and invested in years ago and are now outdated) can be a source of conflict. There is perhaps a simpler solution: Education.

For many hotel owners, the reasoning behind investing in new technology is simply not understood. Our report concludes that “A lack of understanding of the security function is another factor that participants consider as significant in the way decisions are made on security technology.” Many owners may be convinced to purchase certain security technology without being certain of its uses. What is required is greater transparency between the sales and security teams about the benefits and value their product or technologies can add – even beyond security – and bespoke solutions for different businesses.

While it is down to the hotel owner to make the decision on investing their money in a new technology, it is up to the security providers to educate that owner. At present there is a widespread view among hoteliers that technology is both a one-off cost at the start of the hotel’s lifecycle and also that it is simply a way to reduce personnel costs. In order to shift the dialogue on security and technology installation, providers must work with owners to educate them; not simply push for indiscriminate sales without considering the relevance to each individual business. That education, however, should not be intrinsically difficult and it will pay dividends for those beyond the expected parties.

The benefits of embracing new technology and security systems are multiple. While safety and security is one of the top criteria for guest selection of hotel accommodation for both business and leisure “regardless of the star rating of the hotel”, according to our research, the benefits go beyond customer perception. Whether it is the customer, owner, the marketer or the management – the business intelligence that smart video technology provides adds value in the ability to personalise, enhance, and delight guest experiences.
Smart video technology can automatically recognise regular customers through facial recognition, monitor queues and automatically alert management when they reach a certain length, count the number of people in conference rooms and more. The benefits of this technology go well beyond simply security. Customers have an improved experience, the owner can see genuine returns on their investment through increased sales and depleted insurance costs and the management can solve customer disputes and monitor crowding with ease, or aid merchandising, and stock control – ensuring guests always get what they want, perhaps before they know they want it.

It’s a simple fact that when spending money, a business will come up against resistance from within and plenty of encouragement from without. When it comes to security and new technology, the stakes are high. However, the potential benefits are a more than worthy pay-out. By working together, security providers and owners can create a smarter, safer, customer experience. Security technology today is no longer about providing fuzzy-CCTV footage, but data-driven intelligence, a better customer experience and a solution that fits the needs of every business.

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