|(c) 2011 Wikipedia|
This past week, as cities throughout England coped with riots, travelers visiting the country had to face concerns about their safety. Travel Agent Central reached out to several hotels in the city to see what steps they took during the protests to ensure that everyone—employee and guest alike—remained safe.
"We monitored the situation closely via the police, the news and the local authorities and adjusted our response and actions according to the level of disruptions in London," Nicolas Westen, director of sales & marketing at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Canary Wharf, told us. "Our primary focus is on guest and employee well-being and I am glad to report that no one was impacted." Some of the actions the hotel's team took included providing guests with up to date information and guidance on where to go and transportation methods; increasing security coverage in the evenings and overnight to be visible in public areas of the hotel; keeping a senior member of staff in house as long as needed; amending shifts to ensure employee safety; and allowing employees to stay in the hotel if their neighborhood was under threat.
At the recently renovated Savoy, General Manager Kiaran MacDonald bemoaned the protests as not presenting London "in the best light." Fortunately, the hotel had no cancelations last night, and has only seen a few for the immediate future. "It's nowhere near the number I thought we would get," he acknowledged. "I was prepared for a larger number, but it hasn't materialized as yet. It's died down now, and hopefully it won't reoccur. It's premature and naive to think that it's just dissipated, or that people won't be anxious to come to London, but as it relates to the Savoy, it's good."
The Savoy has a crisis procedure for emergencies that the team went through early in the week. They maintained a close connection with the police to get up-to-the-minute information, and had letters with instructions ready to hand out to guests in case of a disturbance. In addition, the director of security stayed overnight in the hotel to keep an eye on the situation.
"These are proactive steps," MacDonald emphasized. "They are not as a result of anything in our area."
Employees of the hotel who might live in or have to pass through affected areas were allowed to go home early, or were supplied with taxis to see them safely to their doorsteps.
"We're a responsible employer," MacDonald said. "It's the right thing to do."
At the newly renovated Four Season Park Lane, General Manager John Stauss emphasized that all of the violence took place away from where most of the city’s major hotels are, and that guests at the hotel were not in danger at any time.
“Which is not to say that we didn’t take precautions,” Stauss added. “All Four Seasons around the world have very specific security plans for all different types of situations, including what happened in London this week.”
At the Park Lane property, the building and its grounds were secured, leaving only one staffed entrance for everyone to get in and out.
“We controlled access to the building, but there was never a need,” Stauss said.
The hotel set several other security measures in place should the need arise. For example, it is impossible to get to the back of the building from the front without a swipe card.
“If we did have an intruder, they would be contained in front,” Stauss said. “There’s no way to get into the back of the house. And they can’t get there from the lobby or a guest floor. All in all, we were prepared and well-equipped.”
To be ready for any problems, or for any necessary executive decisions, Stauss, another manager and the director of security all remained at the hotel around the clock during the crisis. In addition, employees were allowed to stay overnight in the hotel if they did not feel safe going home.
“We were ready to respond immediately,” Stauss said.