LONDON - The Jakarta hotel bombings confront security experts with an increasingly familiar dilemma: How do you give fortress-like protection to businesses whose very existence depends on the gentle art of welcoming people?
Bombs tore through the luxury JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Indonesia's capital on Friday, killing eight people and shaking faith in the effectiveness of security at hotels and other possible targets. [nSP391776]
Police said the Marriott device was planted by people who had checked in as guests and had probably assembled the device in their rooms.
Governments have been highly attuned to hotel security since devastating attacks on high-end establishments frequented by wealthy people or Westerners in Pakistan and India last year.
But they are finding there are no simple, one-size-fits-all solutions to protecting the world's five-star hotels.
Better protection depends on a relentless focus on better routine security practices -- a challenge for managers and workers alike because the tasks are by definition repetitive and monotonous, industry analysts and counter-terrorism experts say.
WHAT HIGH-END HOTELS MAY SEEK TO DO
Full airport-style check-in may be one part of the solution, with more scanners, detector wands, body searches, armed plain clothes security men, surveillance personnel and sniffer dogs.
It is an open question whether business guests who have to come and go several times a day will tolerate repeat searches.
Hotels are not banks or fortresses. They're in the business of welcoming people: So how welcomed can you feel if you're being patted down, wanded and interviewed, says Kevin Doyle, an editor at Conde Naste Traveler.
Guests may be required to personally identify luggage before bags enter the hotel, and both their vehicles and luggage could have to pass scanners that can detect vapor from explosives.
Better training of guards in the use of detection equipment is a must: sloppy procedure is widespread and a serious risk.
New hotels are being designed further away from main roads, allowing greater stand-off protection from vehicle-born bombs. Entrances routes are laid out so that the approach of any vehicle to the main entrance is slow and done in stages.
New building formats eschew glass-paneled lobbies or the placing of a ground floor restaurant adjacent to a car park.
However, most existing hotels by definition are not new -- some of the world's best hotels are historic buildings close to roads -- and adapting existing structures can be complex.
Unmonitored secondary entrances at the backs of buildings can be a weak link allowing undetected access.
Cutting edge technology is useless without the cooperation and training of staff, experts say.
Hotels need to ensure all staff are compensated for their labor with a decent, living wage, not least to minimize the risk of economically-motivated collaboration with attackers.
Experts recommend that hotel recruiters run background checks and psychological profiling of job applicants.
Once an attack is under way it is almost impossible to stop. So security experts recommend hotels develop an ability to detect when they are under surveillance by attack planners.
In effect this requires a fully-fledged intelligence operation: Surveillance cameras and surveillance personnel to identify suspicious behavior and collect evidence, plus trained staff to analyze the material gathered.
WHAT GUESTS MAY SEEK TO DO
Customers can play a big role by demanding better security and by being prepared to pay the higher rates it will entail, thereby providing hotels with a commercial incentive to improve.
Some experts advise business traveler clients to avoid iconic five-star Western hotel chains, arguing they attract attack because they host Westerners. Instead they should opt for less prominent boutique hotels that are less well known.
Others disagree, saying cheaper hotels have less security. They point out that some of the worst outrages of the past 12 months took place in hotels that were not Western-owned.
A list of some travel tips recommended by Conde Nast Traveler magazine can be found at
A SENSE OF PERSPECTIVE
The biggest risk in hotels is fire, not terrorism, experts say, because so many hotels around the world lack sprinkler systems or smoke evacuation systems, and because many actually lock their fire exits.
Another risk is theft, or room invasion, where an attacker tricks or forces their way into a room and robs the guest.
Yvan De Mesmaeker, Secretary General of the European Corporate Security Association, says zero risk levels do not exist. Maybe one of the things we have to be careful about is not to overreact to such events (as Jakarta). I think business travelers should be very careful when they cross the street -- there are more car accidents than bombings.
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)