Homeland security executives feel that hotel and resort facilities such as Walt Disney World could be a terror target. Pictured is the meditation tea garden in a Disney World hotel.

Last year’s suicide bombings against U.S.-brand hotel chains in Amman, Jordan, underscored the fragility of business in the face of global terrorism. The events call for a review of security methodologies by many large enterprises so they can better prevent or minimize future terror incidents.

Three al Qaeda-linked Iraqis, along with a failed female suicide bomber whose husband succeeded in exploding his explosives belt, attacked poorly defended hotels in Amman: the Grand Hyatt, Radisson SAS and Days Inn.

Fearing subsequent attacks, declining foreign tourism revenue and foreign investor angst, Jordanian Deputy Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher immediately stated that all major hotels, banks, government and nongovernmental institutions in Jordan would have metal detectors and other advanced security equipment installed.

Hotels are targets

Suicide bombers attacking hotel targets are no longer an anomaly.

During the past few years, suicide bombers victimized lodging facilities globally from Jakarata and Netanya to Baghdad and Mombasa.

Against this backdrop, enterprise security executives must ask as to what security plan could stop or reduce the negative impact of suicide bombers. Initially, the assets at a lodging facility must be analyzed including human, financial, equipment and intellectual property. Next, the risks and vulnerabilities that exist at such sites should be calculated.

Subsequently, disparate defenses and the benefits they provide must be balanced against the negative impact of such measures (e.g., costs and inconvenience). Adoption of appropriate security strategies would then proceed, followed by a review of defensive actions to ensure their effectiveness. Company-wide dedication to security is a prerequisite for this defensive scheme to succeed.

As the aforementioned security process is not novel, why is security often lacking at lodging facilities? Some of the reasons include:

  • Failure to appreciate terror risks and a naivety that terrorism can “never happen here.” Many Jordanians thought they were immune from radical, Islamic terrorist attacks as Jordan is a predominately Muslim country. A look at neighboring countries and beyond demonstrates otherwise.
  • Managers often view security equipment, personnel and training costs as more burdensome than the negative impact of any terror attack. In a perverse way, business has thus far calculated that the occasional terrorist attack is a “cost of doing business” not worth gauging against with full vigor. Yet, one need only look at the negative implications of the September 11 attacks on commercial aviation to comprehend that weak security may prove shortsighted.
  • Draconian security measures, including barriers at hotel entrances, metal and explosives detectors, heavily armed guards, bomb-sniffing dogs, search of luggage prior to entering a hotel and identification checks are currently viewed as time-consuming and burdensome. Under such rigid security measures, managers predict that consumers would go to less fortified lodging establishments with easier accessibility and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Upon weighing these distinct variables, it is not surprising that often security actions fall short. Yet, under a minimalist security paradigm, suicide terrorist adversaries will continue to aggregate corpses and physical destruction rather easily. That is until government and consumers force industry to adjust their perspectives on security.

“Not here” attitude

Despite the severity of some terror attacks on hotels, it is highly unlikely that we will see significant security measures, legislation or funding allocated to defend lodging facilities in the United States. Only after multiple, momentous terrorist attacks occur against hotels on U.S. soil will groundbreaking legislation, copious funding and broad-based security operational upgrades be adopted on a large-scale here – as was the case with commercial aviation post-9/11. While such types of attacks are not expected in the immediate future, we presently do not have adequate defense measures in place should suicide bombers accelerate their terror timetable against hotels here.