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The House on Mercer Lane a new book by Dr. Riggs

Sometimes it is very difficult to find the right person, in the right place at the right time and such is the reason I am writing this blog. I recently announced we had a publishing agreement for my new book, The House on Mercer Lane. We ended up having to reject that proposal for some issues we realized with the company.

I am putting this out to you, for any who have published a book recently and have had good results (I’m not even expecting ‘great’ results) but those who have had a good experience with your publisher. A fair price and follow-through on what they promise. Even with a contract, it is usually a long fight to get even the smallest amounts back when promises are not kept.

PLEASE pass along to Dr. Riggs the name and contact for a reputable publisher. This book is a mystery/suspense story with a prominent Christian sub-plot. You can call the number on the CONTACT page or fill out the form there to pass along your information! Thank you!

THREAT ASSESSMENT 2020: Is the Hospitality Industry at Risk?

(Published in HotelBusiness.com 2/2020)

RISK

In every aspect of human endeavor, there is risk. From the moment a developer begins to plan another venue for the hospitality industry, he or she or the group involved, are taking on risk, calculated risk. That is, they have studied the market, the options, the plans and forecasts and determined where and to what extent they were willing to invest their time, their talents and their finances and at what risk level.  

The purpose here is to examine areas where the hospitality industry is at a greater risk for man-made crises. Usually, such references to man-made crises include crime, ranging from petty thefts, burglaries, to robberies or arson. Picture a matrix showing an increase in the likelihood of human casualties as events move to the upper right in probability of events and extent of expected damage.  

Included in the matrix is orchestrated chaos such as riots. The term orchestrated is used because events such as political rallies, conventions and demonstrations can bring with them semi-professional chaos creators. These ne’re-do-wells travel, at someone else’s expense, to be in the right place at the right time with the right number of persons who feel disassociated from society in some form or another and they orchestrate chaos. The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago is an excellent example. A more recent example is the Unite the Right, white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017. A man drove his vehicle into the substantially peaceful demonstration, killing one and injuring 28. Whether or not the driver of the vehicle was one of those being paid to play; the instigation of the crowds around such is often done by trained actors. These professional instigators are not just in the U.S. but are used in countries around the world. The higher the tension in an area, the easier it is for them to do their worst. 

Hospitality industry planners know when and where political conventions of a national level will be years in advance and begin building the infrastructure to meet the demand. Large venues with events characterized by international television coverage are potential incubators for mand-made crises. Industry planners must take those issues into account. This is particularly true when certain venues will have a more-or-less continual flow of high-profile events. 

Security measures need to match the expected risk. Certain venues are known to have specific high-profile events at a set time year after year. An excellent example is the induction of enshrinees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio every August. At that time, the City of Canton, a mid-size city just over 73,000 people in a county of just over 375,000, is completely taxed for its safety services. Over 200,000 people pay to enter the facility just off Inter-State 77 during Hall of Fame (HOF) festivities. Many more are attending related events not having their numbers recorded. International sports spotlights are on the city and the local hospitality venues are booked sometimes years in advance.  Dr. Riggs wrote in: Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat, about issues such as the Hall of Fame. “If I am a Canton LEO or event planner’s security consultant for the Hall of Fame then certainly my concentration is going to be upon all of the planning and preparation that is going into the current year’s celebration.”i How best can the security consultant and hospitality professionals concentrate on that preparation and utilize the ARC? 

In January, eight months before the enshrinement ceremonies, the players to be inducted are named. Not all of these are well-liked by every part of the sports or political world. If one or more of these have any controversy swirling around them, the HI venue’s security consultant is going to want to know every detail. Have any had threats made against them? Has the Hall of Fame received any specific threats concerning their inductees or their game plans? When the issue was heavy in the media about players not standing for the National Anthem, some strong nationalists took more than just mild umbrage to their demonstration. The HOF during that time placed hundreds of American flags on their property aligning IS 77 for all to see.  

A of the ARC is awareness. The security consultant team needs to know as much as they can possibly know. The consultant to the hotels who will be housing the players needs to know which ones have a following that is less than stellar. In a past year, one local hotel housing the enshrinees simply cordoned off a small place in the parking lot for those hoping to get a photo or autographs. There was no security assigned to the space and the people behind the yellow tape could mingle along with the press who usually had a camera crew on-hand. There was only a minimal increase in the security presence inside the hotel and no real safeguards in part because there were no issues with any of that year’s enshrinees known to the hotel or their security staff.   

The last sentence is an excellent example because it relates to another part of the ARC. That point will be revisited once the ‘R’ for recognition is consideredTake the example of the HOF again. The hotel has no reason to believe there are any known risks other than the usual intoxicated and obnoxious fan and the risk of theft of an enshrinees personal items for souvenirs. A large issue for hotel management was the financial cost for additional security. The entire hotel was completely booked solid for the week, yet the push for higher profit margins kept them from having adequate security. From the management point of view, profit margin is a huge issue. Other considerations though are: 

* ShapeEvery time a celebrity walked in or out of the hotel, past the hotel’s moniker there was instant world-wide advertisement, no cost.  

  • ShapeIf the hotel lives up to expectation, or goes beyond them, the NFL will be back again year after year. An on-going revenue stream the hotel can book a year in advance. They can also use their status to bring in other significant groups. 
  • ShapeA negative incident, security breach, assault on an enshrinee, major theft or a fire and the front of the hotel is on the cable news ad infinitum.  
  • ShapeA negative incident could completely wipe-out the return of the NFL and the promotion to others for years to come.  

Still, the security team is trained, hopefully, to watch for and be aware of conditions that may prove to be a risk. It is not always security, but safety which can be an issue and create horrific headlines for a hotel, restaurant or other hospitality venue. Such was the case when one of the security agents working noticed a particular enshrinee had experienced a very long day and the enshrinee’s age was beginning to take its toll. The agent intervened very subtly as the car pulled up in front of the hotel in view of all the cameras and fans gathered nearby.  The gentleman was barely able to ambulate from the car to a wheelchair. To prevent the enshrinee from being embarrassed and to be on-hand in case he stumbled, the alert security agent was of sufficient height to shield the elderly gentleman from the flashing cameras as he cautiously was seated in his chair. No fanfare, no big deal; in fact, no one noticed. Awareness can prevent an incident.  

Finally, communication The earlier paragraph had this statement: “…there were no issues with any of last year’s enshrinees, known to the hotel or their security staff.” Was it because there weren’t any issues or because there had not been sufficient communication? The security consultant for the hospitality venue needs to be asking questions, from months in advance right through the event, of those most directly involved with the inner security of the event. Because someone from the inner-security team wears a suit with a lapel pin and an ear-mic does not give them superiority or ownership over the information. The hospitality venue’s GM or vice-president responsible for hiring the security consultant better make certain they have one who is not intimidated by government alphabet agencies or million-dollar security teams. Usually, a consultant with enough years in the circus no longer worries about the would-be ringmasters because he has earned a few rings of his own. If your hospitality enterprise does not have such a consultant, they should find one. There is no excuse for anyone holding on to information which may directly impact the safety and security of the people involved in an event.  

IMPACT of TERROR on TRAVEL 

The hospitality industry has one driving factor to help determine how each should prepare for possible terrorist or organized criminal activity either against their facilities or, within their facilities, targeting guests. It doesn’t require a prognosticator of biblical proportions to know the answer. Like everything else: Location, Location, Location.  

Trends take place in every human endeavor. It is our nature and we cannot escape it. Even with a prevalence of terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Africa, tourism is rising. Between 2017 and 2018 there was a 7 percent rise in global tourism and according to the UN World Tourism Organization, tourist arrivals increased to 1.4 billion travelers, a gain of 6% globally. Gains were realized even with certain areas of the Middle East and Africa suffering terrorists acts against international hotels. Trends include the targeting of government officials, aid workers and security personnel with attacks occurring in hotels and restaurants. Such travelers are considered a higher risk. 

The threats to persons within the hotels and other venues is not always physical. An increasing risk to those traveling is cyber terrorism. The theft of data, the hacking of software and other cyber-related crimes against the persons noted as in the ‘higher-risk’ category continue. Industrial espionage is alive and well, traveling the world in search of secrets.  

Travelers themselves must take a great amount of the responsibility for securing their data. Still, the venues themselves become a co-target. If the bad guys want to hack the cyber-world of guests of a hotel, their first stop is to hack the system of the hotels themselves. The security consultant we spoke of in the preceding paragraphs need not be a master of all things cyber; but he or she better know who the very best possible anti-hacker might be and will include them on their payroll. The hospitality industry needs to know the price tag for such consultation is not going to be inexpensive; but there will be much fewer dollars going out in payment to the consulting firm than out the door through cyber-space if the bad guys get in. One expert in the field maintains that such cyber threats to hotels are not imminent but remain likely. Dr. Riggs holds that the group  

which wrote that particular statement was more in reference to cyber-attacks by known terrorist groups than cyber-attacks in general. The more generalized attacks are already here. Cyber-based industrial espionage is already prevalent. If your venue has a Wi-Fi system, you have a security issue. There are too many security software programs offering the moon and the stars. Recently, it was found the primary maker of one of those programs was from Russia and held back-doors for hackers to enter. Avail yourselves of a security consultant who will bring a true expert on-line. 

BIOLOGICAL THREATS 

Bioterrorism… so lethal, so uncaring as to those it strikes, it seems too barbaric to believeAlready the conspiracy theorists have it all mapped out how the Coronavirus was an over- reaching bioterror germ planted on its own citizens by a Chinese germ warfare factory near the ground zero of the virus. It was never meant to get out of control but was done for study purposes. It must be true. Uber drivers in Las Vegas are certain of it! 

So far in this pandemic, with their strict border controls, Israel has had zero cases of the virus. That is something to consider. Their hotlines, however, were inundated in the third week of February 2020 by Israeli citizens fearing they have contracted the virus. Reports just two months after the release of the virus and prior to it being listed as a pandemic, the stock market has already knee-jerked negatively because of the fear of its spread. Fear impacts the bottom line 

Still, travelers travel, whether there is a risk or there is not. They will go someplace. What may be a death knoll to a hospitality venue in one country could be ringing out celebration of new birth in another. With the travelers come their risks. Their cyber risks, their biological pandemic risks, their criminal targeted risks all come with them. If you invite them, they will come. The one common denominator is: all travelers have baggage and not all of it holds clothing 

Again, the Middle East is case in point. Attacks in Iraq continued so the tourists moved. Between 2017 and 2018, Egypt, Qatar, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia had steady growth. Kenya, according to one report had a tourism surge of 31.26 percent between 2017 and 2018, with January alone having a 15.7 percent growth. The next months, will, according to Dr. Riggs, show a similar shift from China to other parts of the Far East. Polynesia will likely benefit greatly from Mainland China’s spread of the Coronavirus.  

What can or should a venue do to protect itself from such biological risks? Consider how a rumor of Cimex ledtularius Linnaeus in a hotel travels. One room has them, but the story becomes they are crawling across the lobby floor and resting on the front desk clerk’s ink pen. Imagine the possibility of an airborne respiratory infection being attached to the venue. A similar analogy could be made for restaurant venues. One rumor of e coli or salmonella is as if a sign of doom hung over the doorway. The answer is both complex and simple.  

A hospitality venue is not like a nation that can restrict access at its borders for those who appear ill or risk carrying an infection. There are some forms of biological warfare which if waged against regions, keeping the venue open will be the last of the worries. Do what you can do about the risks you can manage. There are no short cuts in room cleaning, sterilization of common areas, bathing areas, pool areas and water fountains. The cleaning crew must know their jobs and understand the very important role they play within the organization. The days of considering housekeeping a demeaning job have to be put in the past. Crews should be equipped and trained and paid in a way that reflects the sensitivity of the job they do. The same is true for restaurant kitchen staff.  

Violations of health regulations cannot be tolerated, but examples of superior care for the customers’ meal, the cleanliness of their glasses, tableware and plates should be rewarded. If a customer or guest is found to be ill with anything that could be contagious, those rooms should be expertly cleaned and sanitized. Regular inspection and cleaning of air  

filtration systems are vital. The best and healthiest of filtration systems should be used. Cutting costs in this area is a risk the venue need not and must not take. Public water fountains should be replaced by available bottled water. Reducing risk will help the bottom line in the long-term.  

RECOVERY FROM TERROR 

How long does it take to recover from a cold? The homespun wisdom is 7 days if you see the doctor, a week if you don’t. But how long does it take to recover from a terrorist attack if you are a hospitality venue? According to research by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the average time is 13 months as compared to political unrest which tags in at 26.7 months.  The immediate—and relative short-term—effect on a destination’s travel and tourism can be swift. “After the Paris attacks, for example, the occupancy rate at hotels fell 21 percent on the Saturday following the attacks and 23 percent the next day. Turkey, which has had a recent series of high-profile bombings, has seen its tourism drop by 10 percent in February compared to last year… According to Rochelle Turner of the World Tourism and Travel Council reports, “One of the reactions we see from travelers is that they change destinations, but they do not tend to stop traveling as a whole.”ii  

Is it possible that terrorist groups notice these trends as well and adapt their tactics and timetables to them? Do they use their tactics to drive the economy down of one country while lifting another? Or, are they only concerned in their specific targets? Could it be possible that terrorist groups are aware of who owns which hotel and restaurant venues in a given region and seek to destroy the one while enhancing the other? Dr. Riggs makes it clear, he has not seen any empirical evidence of such an orchestrated use of terrorism for the control of the hospitality industry. The economy of those venues, regions and even countries is merely collateral damage when it comes to terrorism. The terrorists will attack where their targets gather. With the power the attacks can have to drive the travelers from one country to the next, doesn’t it seem possible they might experiment with such tactics to drive their own economic influence? As sophistication continues to increase among these groups, such experimentation is likely. 

Interestingly, there are rivalries between terror groups. To fight over the absolute control of a given state or region is very much part of their daily lives. The hospitality industry can be one more piece to the control puzzle. In the ‘roaring 20’s’ in America around cities like Chicago, rival bootlegging and drug gangs fought for control over areas by who could protect the businesses and who could not. What businesses would pay for protection and those who would not. As America enters its next ‘roaring 20’s’ one has to also wonder if the drug gangs of this century might be working the very same angle. Internationally, though, it may not be about drugs but the currency of the day may be terrorism. What terror groups can protect their business ‘partners’ and which ones cannot? Which of the hospitality venues are willing to be extorted for that kind of protection, and who are not? Recovery from terrorism can be as low as 13 months. Political turmoil, pandemics and environmental disasters can push well into two years. Can your hospitality venue survive two years of recovery? Compared to the cost of protection, which would you choose?  

TERROR IN ALL FORMS 

If the bad guys were going to attack your venue, how would they do it? What do the statistics say? The number one top of the list for the entire global economy, is explosives. According to experts, 44.4% of attacks against luxury hotels between 2002 and 2015 was done by explosives. Included in those numbers are explosives attached to a vehicle as the delivery device. Car bombs came in at 31 percent. Right behind car bombs were what is called, multi-pronged attacks. That is, the terrorist used a combination of methods. For about 30.6 percent of the attacks it was a combination of firearms and explosives. Down at the bottom end of the spectrum, one quarter of the attacks were by firearms only.* 

The first half of 2019 showed 16 attacks on popular tourist sites including restaurants and hotels that were linked to either Islamic State or Al Qaeda (or their affiliates – remember they are in a push for decentralization since Bin Laden was killed). Sixteen seems like a low number but the numbers indicate that is a 60% increase over the same time in 2018. It is important to see where those attacks occurred and how they were committed. Two of the attacks were linked to hotels or the hospitality industry. Three of the sixteen were  

recorded on Fridays which is only significant if the other thirteen were less clustered by day of the week. Five were stabbings and six occurred in the evenings. That is pretty scarce data from which to gain any real insights but they are pieces for which there is a larger puzzle into which they can be placed. It is the security consultant’s work to complete that puzzle before something bad happens to your hotel or restaurant.  

Awareness  Recognition – Communication. If the industry is not talking to one another and sharing awareness and recognition, within the industry all is for naught. The country in Europe who suffered the most in the first half of 2019 was France.  

France reported nearly 90 million visitors in 2018 and anticipate over 100 million in 2020 but, they admit “2019 had gotten off to a rocky start, with international passenger arrivals to Paris airports slumping by five to 10 percent in December, and ticket bookings continuing to fall in the first months of this year.  

Last week, Insee reported that the number of overnight stays in tourist accommodations across France fell by 2.5 percent in the first quarter, with the Ile-de-France region encompassing Paris down by 4.8 percent.”iii  Reports place the blame for 2019 at the foot of political unrest, called locally, the Yellow Vest, a moniker for those protesting. The hopes for the coming year are optimistic. It is yet to be totaled the number of venues not able to survive last year’s first quarter dive.  

There are physical changes you can make to present less of a target. Hotel and restaurant design needs to now consider hardening assets to prevent or lessen the impact of a terrorist attack. Sidewalk cafes are cute attention getters. They also get the attention of terrorists. Putting your guests right out there to be the first ones struck by a motor vehicle being used as a weapon or a car bomb is horrific. Move the outdoor café in and down with a great view out the back. Vehicle barriers by the main entrances are vital. If possible, move your guest reception area including car port far off the roadway and under cover, behind the vehicle barriers. Cars parked in a drop-off area left unattended must not be permitted. A valet serviced parking garage off-site is a strategy against car bombs. The list goes on. The point is, sharing information about techniques which work well and about known or suspected attacks is what must happen within the industry

CONCLUSION 

In the report by Michael Doherty for Hillard & Heintze, (Jan. 2020)iv the first trend Doherty saw in the year ahead was: “Fear of mass shooting and active assailant attacks will continue to impact everyday Americans’ daily habits and psyches.’ One can always argue the specific numbers involved in any social statistics leading to a  decisive conclusion. Regardless, the report indicates there is a fear out there. However, we know from the World Tourism Organization, travelers still travel. Your role is to provide a proactive level of security while being a welcoming hospitality venue.  

Programs such as SCI’s C.A.R.E. are designed to help venues do just thatCritical Assessment Risk Evaluation provides the premises owner a quality review of how they can best prepare their facility for both safety and security in an inobtrusive way. Plus, businesses that complete the C.A.R.E. program receive a designation as a gold, silver, or bronze “(Meeting or Exceeding) Safety and Security Standards” which can be part of your venue promotions

Another trend, according the Doherty report is an expectation American businesses will:  identify mass shootings as risk factors in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings. While trying to protect themselves from major loses, they will be sending a death knoll to smaller venues who will not be able to acquire investors and perhaps pay the higher insurance premiums brought about by such filings. The action is a knee-jerk reaction. Rather than kowtow to the risk, venues should buck-up and face it as many European and Middle Eastern venues do. Square your shoulders, do what you can to harden your facility, have professional armed security watching over your physical structure and cyber access, and continue with business that is vibrant, alive and worth pursuing. 

Awareness – Recognition – Communication are three interdependent key strategies for prospering in times of heightened risk. 

Security consultants – you can have the most knowledgeable person out there; but if he or she does not motivate every single employee to be part of the total prevention plan, you have wasted your money. This is not an issue where the expert comes in and fixes everything. This is a professional who comes and in facilitates changes needed in specific areas and creates a team which brings every employee on mission. When it comes to finding the right consultant, one is reminded of an old U.S. car repair commercial. ‘Pay me now or pay me later’ and the admonition meant it will cost so much now ahead of time to avoid trouble or you will pay a much bigger cost later once trouble has found you. The wise man avoids risk. That is the number 1 rule.  

We at SCI wish you  every success and stand ready to help in any way. 

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