Former top policeman Bob Quick talks to BHN about why he has launched a security accreditation scheme for hotels, and why it’s relevant for all types and sizes of property.
• Please give us an idea of your background and why you decided to launch Global Secure Accreditation (GSA)
“I spent 32 years with the British police service, most recently as chief constable of Surrey and assistant commissioner of specialist operations at New Scotland Yard in charge of police counter-terrorism for the UK. While in this role I oversaw the investigations into some of the most complex terrorism cases that took place in the UK.”
“Until now, hotel security could not be assessed against an independently recognised standard. We were becoming aware that travellers, in all sectors, are increasingly looking to the hospitality industry to provide information on security standards to allow them to make informed decisions prior to booking. In fact, a recent Travelzoo survey in the nine biggest traveller countries saw 89 per cent of guests ranking security as their first concern when travelling.”
“Global Secure Accreditation is the world’s first independent system of hotel security accreditation, and it enables travellers to make more informed choices on safety and security within hotels internationally.”
• How does the accreditation system work?
“At the start of the process, each participating hotel is assigned a dedicated GSA trained and qualified assessor, who has been drawn from our global network of experienced former law enforcement or military professionals. All our assessors are also independently accredited by SFJ Awards.”
“The assessor will use specialist research techniques to complete a risk profile, unique to the hotel, that will evaluate the likelihood and impact of national, regional and local security risks. Then, depending on the level of membership the client adopts, the assessor will either manage the hotel through a self-assessment process, undertaken remotely through our secure, bespoke web-based software platform, or the assessor will undertake the assessment on behalf of the hotel including a full on-site inspection.”
“When the assessment is completed the hotel is either recommended to SFJ Awards for accreditation or a plan for remedial action is agreed with the hotel to meet the required standard. Successful hotels will receive a Global Secure Certificate of Accreditation, a detailed Accreditation Report and digital assets, including the Global Secure mark, for guest and industry communications.”
• What would you say are the most pressing security issues facing independent and boutique hotels in the UK and Europe?
“Any hotel is at risk of predacious and opportunistic criminals coming onto the property with bad intent. Theft of guest property, sexual assault, room burglaries or incursions and cyber-crimes are not uncommon. Independent and boutique hotels may not have the same infrastructural support as larger chains or groups so they may not have ready access to security expertise, intelligence and best practice.”
“A Global Secure accreditation will allow the hotel to test its understanding of the main risks and threats it faces and whether the security arrangements in place meet the accreditation standard which requires practical and reasonable mitigation of these risk and threats to be in place. Where there are significant gaps, an action plan will be provided to help the hotel to take sensible and cost-effective steps to reduce vulnerabilities for guest, staff and the hotel’s reputation and assets. The attainment of the accreditation provides guests, travel managers and the hotel’s management or ownership with confidence that the right things are in place, minimising risks and impacts of crime and other threats.”
• And what are the most efficient and cost-effective solutions to those issues?
“This depends to an extent on where in the world the hotel is and what type of hotel it is. The most effective defences for a hotel are high levels of staff awareness and being prepared, together with a confident and active customer engagement culture within the hotel. Service and security actually go hand in hand and it deters criminals and other potential attackers who want to remain anonymous and invisible.”
“When criminals enter a hotel, the last thing they want is for a member of staff to approach them and say ‘good morning, how may I help you?’ This means there is eye contact – a staff member who has had a good look at their face – there is a verbal exchange where the hostile has to now ‘invent’ an excuse for being at the hotel, potentially leading to the staff member asking more difficult questions!”
“We have a term, ‘knowing your normal’, which is an acknowledgement that the staff are the best people to spot something that does not look right. This, combined with some basic awareness training about how to spot those with malintent, is a very powerful weapon against attackers. In addition, some hotels need to consider the physical environment and how it can be harnessed to enhance security along with putting in place appropriate cyber and information security protocols.”
• Security is clearly a major concern for corporate travellers, but how are leisure travellers’ attitudes changing?
“Survey after survey in recent years has emphatically demonstrated that travellers are more anxious about their security and seeking greater levels of assurance. The attitude used to be ‘it won’t happen to me’ but it is now more ‘it could happen to me’. The general increase in the reporting of attacks and crimes at hotels, together with some of the major attacks of the past decade, have driven this attitude. Furthermore, the corporate duty of care to staff who are sent on business travel has assumed much greater priority in recent years so travel risk managers are seeking greater transparency about a hotels commitment to security.”
“A major survey conducted in 2017 for Travelzoo in nine of the leading travel nations (USA, Japan, China, UK, Germany, France, Russia, South Africa and India) resulted in 97 per cent of respondents stating security and safety was a concern when travelling abroad and 89 per cent ranked this as their primary concern. The majority (70 per cent) felt significantly more concerned than they did in 2014. In 2017, 64 per cent of travel security professionals surveyed by Ipsos-Mori stated they believed travel risks were increasing. Research for the Institute of Travel Management in 2019 revealed travel safety was the primary concern of their membership.”
• How many hotels have you signed to date and what are your targets for the next two and five years?
“Since bringing GSA to market earlier this year we have accredited a small number of hotels in London and Northern Ireland. We have now agreed to roll GSA out to approximately 50 luxury hotels around the world and will be announcing details soon. We have also started accreditation assessments with another group with more than 200 hotels worldwide and we are in advanced discussions with several other luxury brands who have sought implementation proposals.”
“We also have numerous corporates who are now actively considering how to harness GSA as a trusted level of assurance for their travel risk management and duty of care functions and have recently been through due diligence processes with two of the world’s largest banks. One of these banks routinely uses approximately 1,400 different hotels and have indicated they would like to make accreditation a requirement of their custom.”
“Next year ISO 31030 Travel Risk Management Standards is due for release and it is anticipated this will require corporate travel managers to seek independent or evidence-based verification of a hotel security standards. As Robin Sheppard, chairman of the Institute of Hospitality, recently said ‘independent security accreditation of hotels should become the new normal in the industry’.”
“In two years I would expect to have at least 500 hotels accredited worldwide and in five years I think accreditation will be the new normal.”