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Analysis

GLF18 Face to Face: "Security, it would be crazy not to integrate it into the hotel business," Thibault de Montbrial

France has been hit hard by terrorism recently, particularly in 2015 and 2016. Other countries in Europe and around the world have also been hit, reminding us that security and safety are universal issues. Hoteliers are concerned more than ever by these issues in their daily lives. Thibault de Montbrial and Georges Fenech shed light on this issue and its importance for hotel and tourism stakeholders.

 

  • Who is involved in the security of a destination? Who are the stakeholders?

Thibault de Montbrial is a lawyer of the Paris Bar Association, founding partner of MI2 Avocats and President of CRSI (Centre de Réflexion sur la Sécurité Intérieure).

Security, "it would be crazy not to integrate it into the hotel business". For example, in Tunisia, the March and June 2015 attacks cost Tunisia's tourism budget 18 months in turnover. According to him, the key word is "Anticipation". The Maghreb and West Africa seem more exposed today than major European cities, but "one cannot seriously say that a 5-star property in Paris today is theoretically not exposed to an attack".

Cooperation with different actors is needed, but particularly with local intelligence services.

Georges Fenech is a former magistrate, consultant on terrorism issues, president of the parliamentary inquiry following the Paris attacks.

For him, the question of safety is "fundamental" because "if the hotel business does not take it into account, then its existence is directly threatened". It makes the distinction between safety (voluntary acts, crime, terrorism) and security (involuntary acts such as tsunami, cyclone, fire) indicating that the former is a right.

Safety is a "sovereign responsibility". Public authorities are responsible for the safety of citizens. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the first actor to turn to. It is organized to prevent and respond. Prevention that must be taken into account. The Ministry has an informative role through a support, crisis, and consultation unit; the application Ariane makes it possible to transmit data to the Ministry and be informed in real time, and provide intervention.

 

  • In concrete terms, how is safety organised inside a property?

According to Thibault de Montbrial, the hypothesis of a terrorist act must be analyzed coldly. It is necessary to work with specialists, former State services (operational side), to make audits. In the case of French properties or foreign properties subject to French law, the owner of the hotel chain is criminally liable if he has not done what was necessary in terms of safety.

After the audit, action must be taken. "The difficulty of your job is to find a balance between effective measures and measures that are not too visible. It's true that it wouldn't be very pleasant, in a 5-star hotel, to feel like one is in a military style bunker.”

It is also very important to prepare staff for a potential attack. Staff are also very interested because "it is much more anxiety provoking to have a kind of taboo" than to discuss the subject in concrete terms. Personnel must be selected, trained (fire, first aid, tactical training, etc.) and simulation exercises must be carried out because "in the case of intense stress, mind and body lose about 80% of their normal capacities. The remaining 20% will result of training. If such situations are not anticipated, fear, seizure, tetany, and unproductive agitation take over.

"I believe that the future lies in armed private security in institutions, under the conditions provided by the laws and texts that will legislate on this subject. If an incident begins, we will call peace-keeping forces and rescue services, but there will be no intervention for 10-15 minutes, and 10-15 minutes means 50 dead."

Georges Fenech adds that a property, for tourism or not, in danger or not, must have its own charter, its own security process, with a hierarchy, with a security manager who has all the contacts with the local authorities (consular authorities, security attachés in embassies) in order to have the fastest reaction.

"It is better to be cautious, but not anxious" and accept to sacrifice a little individual freedom for more security.

In addition to audits, there may also be a containment room, and information flow and how to contact local police authorities and the consular officer may be determined.

He notes a breakthrough: "Intervention forces did not have the Bataclan's plans. Today, all major institutions are required to submit their plans. For a hotel, the first reflex to have is to give its plans to its embassy, the security attaché and the local authorities."

 

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