The thorny issue of Hotel Security

As an avid female business traveller who occasionally travels alone, I know all too well those nagging feelings of insecurity, especially when one checks into a Hotel for the first time. I place my personal (including possessions) security as a high priority and thankfully Hotels are now beginning to take this viewpoint more seriously these days, especially within the EU borders. I’m pleased to see that Hotels particularly in the EU are taking some positive measures to improve Hotel security and safety overall and the decision of the EU to hold all Hotels responsible for the contents has made a great difference.

For example in the UK, a Hotel is liable for damage or loss to guests’ property caused by negligence or breach of contract. In other circumstances, the Hotel may limit its liability to £50 per item and £100 per Guest (or if in Greater London, £750 per item and £1,500 per guest) so long as it has a correct and prominently displayed notice to this effect in its reception. Each EU country has their own specific take on the broader regulations, which can be viewed as inconsistent, however the key point is that steps have been taken in the right direction.

Nevertheless, Hotels dislike talking about security, as theft and other crimes still happen on their premises and watch. Precisely how much happens is impossible to pinpoint, because Hotels do not disclose numbers and all too often government statistics do not record crimes by property type. One misconception and the easier blame game answer falls on Maids concerning room thefts, but now we learn that criminals have found new ground to explore.

So Ladies and the Gentlemen, here are some top tips on the thorny topic of Hotel security to counter the threat.
  1. Check-in Online: This is a relatively new Hotel service. There is nothing worse than standing at the front desk waiting to be served after a long journey to the back of beyond, only to wait further until the Receptionist takes a copy of your passport, then of your Credit card (make sure there are no extra copies floating around) and requests that you fill in a record card asking for your personal data in a Public space. Then you have to start negotiating your room preference and get briefed on the general Hotel information. After this long process (certainly so for some Hotels) you are finally handed the all important key and the front desk staff shouts out your room number for everyone else to hear! If you are travelling alone as a women you don’t want the world to know your room No. or become familiar with your private data, nor do you want an undesirable to observe it on a temporary luggage label, which is whisked away (often without permission) by the Bell Boy hungry for a tip. Checking in online and dealing with the Bell Boy assertively avoids much of this danger.
  2. Floor: If you're a woman traveling alone, request a room on the second or third floor, as close as possible to the front desk without being on the ground floor or first floor, which are too close for comfort to the exit or entrance. Statistically upper floors are safer from crime threats, however not ideal for fire rescue, where your chances of escape are best from the 5th floor down. In the light of this information a balance of half way up, could provide the safest results, all things considered.
  3. Locks: Check what the locking facilities are in your room such as the Deadbolt, Electronic lock or sliding bar. Use them!
  4. Door: Keep the door locked at all times when in your room. When you arrive to your room for the first time, check that the sliding glass doors, windows and connecting room doors are firmly locked.
  5. Do-Not-Disturb: Put the Do-Not-Disturb sign on the doorknob even when you are away, this naturally deters room burglars.
  6. TV: Turn on the TV or radio just loud enough to hear through the door to give the appearance that the room is occupied.
  7. Light: Leave one light on inside the room. This gives the appearance that someone is in from the outside.
  8. Inspection: Always go through the same room inspection routine every time you re-enter.
  9. Female advice: Women traveling alone should be careful when using the breakfast order card. This card has your name and the room No. boldly displayed; criminals can knock on the door posing as room service and use your name to gain entry. Alternatively, they could use the information later to gain access to your room. Here they will likely call the room first and if there is no answer, force entry.
  10. Spy hole: If there is a spy hole, check it first before you answer the door.
  11. Safety kit: Bring your own Hotel safety kit with you, which most importantly should feature a smoke hood, torch and personal alarm.
  12. Finding things: Place your key, torch and Mobile phone in your shoes, by the side of your bed, so that you can find them quickly in the event of an emergency or loss of light.
  13. Emergency numbers: Remember that if you are visiting a foreign country, you do not have to know the local emergency numbers. Most GSM mobile phones can dial emergency calls even when the phone keyboard is locked, the phone is without a SIM card, or an emergency number is entered instead of the PIN. Most GSM mobile phones have 112 and 911 as pre-programmed emergency numbers that are always available. The SIM card issued by operator can contain additional country-specific emergency numbers that can be used even when roaming abroad. Using an emergency number recognized by a GSM phone like 112 instead of another emergency number is advantageous, since GSM phones and networks give special priority to emergency calls.
We hope that you feel a little safer on your next trip, knowing that you can at least take some precautions to protect yourself.

Sharon Holmes
Perpetual Traveller