A recently released report by Restrata, a global leader in safety and security consultancy and training services, has warned of the continued need for improved hotel security to protect employees and guests from future terror attacks across the Middle East and North Africa.
The report released by Restrata deals broadly with the hospitality industry, of which the cruise industry is a part, and with the significant growth in the number of cruise ships visiting the Middle East each year, using Dubai as the homeporting hub, the warnings ring true.
“The hospitality industry should step up its efforts to protect itself against potentially deadly attacks by identifying the steps which must be taken to improve security systems, processes and cultures,” the firm said in a release.
“Hotels have been seen as a soft target for terrorist attacks because they tend to have large, open spaces and attract a high number of visitors, many of whom are often foreigners,” the warning adds.
There have been more than 160 terror attacks worldwide targeting hotels since 1970, with more than 40 occurring in the last five years alone.
There are no comparative statistics for the cruise industry, but Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, the UK’s highest naval officer in Nato, said Islamic State’s spread into Libya had cast an ‘uncomfortable shadow’ over the sea and that cruise ships visiting the area could be vulnerable to attack.
CNN has previously reported that Al Qaeda had planned to hijack a cruise ship and video its militants executing passengers. Gaining access to a cruise ship to carry out such an attack would likely occur in one of the North African ports on the Mediterranean.
One such port was the site of the massacre of more than a dozen cruise passengers last year. A cruise shore excursion was targeted by gunmen in Tunis, who killed 14 passengers who had arrived on MSC and Costa cruise ships.
While cruise ships and hotels in the Arabian Gulf are generally considered to be safe from such events, Restrata calls for major brands to have contingency plans in place.
Botan Osman, Managing Director of Restrata said: “Hospitality targeted attacks may rise unless the industry takes a harder stance. This can be done whilst balancing the business needs of the hotel.
Sadly not all incidents can be prevented. Mr Osman added: “Attempts must be made to prevent terrorist attacks, but operators should also have a plan in place to deal with such events.
“We live in an interactive world, where terrorist attacks quickly gain traction in the media. As a global hotel brand, this level of coverage means that an assault on one property ultimately impacts overall reputation by association, damaging the overall brand image.”
Restrata’s white paper reports that the challenge for the hotel sector is to strike the right balance between creating a welcoming environment while ensuring the safety and security of visitors, guests and staff.
“We have found that appropriate security measures are often not considered early enough in the design stage of most hotel developments. It’s frequently seen as an unnecessary cost and there’s a belief that installing CCTV cameras will suffice,” explained Jas Jaiya, Technical Design authority at Restrata.
However, Claire McDonald, Senior Security Consultant at Restrata, pointed out in emailed comments to Cruise Arabia & Africa that the cruise industry is generally ahead of the curve in this regard, compared to hotels.
“With a security mind-set, cruise ships are not only ‘floating hotels’. In the broadest sense, the cruise ship industry must be able to merge the best of breed of hotel security and a number of other factors,” she says.
These include passenger safety, transportation, logistics (people & commodities), Port Authority regulations, immigration controls, counter terror initiatives and many other local and national authority standards to uphold the principles of ensuring a safe and secure experience for paying customers and the staff onboard.
“This goes beyond the provision of on-board security systems and security personnel and encompasses several other necessary security processes and protocols to ensure the security of the vessel and its passengers,” McDonald tells Cruise Arabia & Africa.
“On the whole, the regulations and standards applicable to the cruise ship industry are robust and thorough. They encompass all of the above and set out the provision for risk reduction strategies from ensuring contraband is not loaded onto the vessel to ensuring passenger safety both vessel bound and shore-side.”
Serving clients across the world from its offices around the globe, and headquartered in the UAE, Restrata provides a range of safety and security services to establish the necessary security and crisis management arrangements to build resilience within organisations, including consultancy, auditing and risk assessments, situational awareness and tracking, training and workforce development, response services in crisis and continuity management, fire and rescue services, safe journey management, and HSE management.