Trend Watch – As Suspects in Boston Bombings Surface, What's Next for Travel Security?

bostonUpdate as of 4/19/13 at 9:15 a.m.: USA Today is reporting that one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings has been killed in a shootout with police. The manhunt for the second suspect continues.

Travel Agent caught up with Todd Seiders, director of risk management at Petra Risk Solutions and former director of loss prevention at Marriott, on how hotels and public events can work to increase traveler safety in the future.

“The Boston Marathon bombing is just another example of how hard it is to secure public places and events,” Seiders says. “According to the news, bomb dogs had swept the finish line area 1 hour prior to the start of the marathon. So obviously police did everything they could to secure the area, and the bombs were brought in during the event.”

Because of the nature of their business, implementing TSA-style security measures at hotels would not be a good idea, Seiders says. “They would have to limit the entry into their buildings, search bags, confirm you have business there and inconvenience everyone. The general public will not stand for that (look at the continuing uproar about the TSA at airports).”

Complicating the issue is the fact that hotel staff members are, by and large, trained to please potential guests, which can render them vulnerable to security threats.

“There is a constant clash between hotel security experts and seasoned hotel management people, whose pay and bonuses depend on guest satisfaction surveys and comments,” Seiders continues. “Hotel security experts need to find more guest friendly ways to provide security, and hotel managers need to take security more seriously. A large number of hotels do not have a dedicated security staff, so security falls on the guest service staff, and guest service staff is trained never to say no or to offend or interfere with the guest experience.”

Seiders recommends hotels install HD cameras to monitor open public spaces, exits and entrances, both to deter crime and to aid investigation should one occur. Staff should be trained to pick up and investigate unattended bags or luggage, and hotels should work closely with their local police of sheriff department, along with Homeland Security, to discuss security and terrorism.

“Hotel staff is scared to death that if they upset a guest and have a complaint, they will always get in trouble,” Seiders says. “This prevents hotel staff from acting in a security role and questioning suspicious behavior. Attitudes about hotel security need to change all around.”