New Delhi: In the wake of the terrorist strikes in Mumbai, the hospitality industry and the government administration that runs policies for the business are working to strengthen security in an age of urban terror.
At least 74 guests at the prime properties— the Taj Mahal run by Indian Hotels Co. Ltd and the Trident-Oberoi complex owned by EIH Ltd—were killed in the attacks, the worst terrorist-inflicted casualty involving hotels in India.
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The Union ministry of tourism on Friday said it will review basic mandatory safety and security norms it lays down for hotels applying for government-approved star classification. The last time the norms were reviewed was in 2003.
“Basic standards on security have to be revised and norms have to be updated. Just like terrorists keep updating themselves, our standards need to too,” said Sudhir Sibal, vice-president (hotels) at India Tourism Development Corp. Ltd, or ITDC. The state-run firm is installing closed circuit television in the hotels
“Once this (Mumbai situation) is over, we can sit down and work out plans and proposals with the hotel industry to review and improve the norms on security,” said a senior ministry official, requesting anonymity.
Hotel chains said they were reacting immediately. Other security measures included increasing the number of security guards. “No one can be trained to deal with terrorists. A 24-hour cover at the key entrances is mandatory,” said Sarovar Hotels Pvt. Ltd executive director Ajay Bakaya. Sarovar, which has some 700 security personnel employed at at least 30 properties, plans to contact security consulting firms in India to help utilize such staff better, Bakaya said.
Other than these immediate changes directly linked to security, recruitments, too, will see a rehaul, hotel industry executives and hiring consultants said, in light of reports that some of the attackers might have been hotel employees or had links with them, or at the very least knew the hotel layouts well.
The hospitality industry has generally relied on references when recruiting new staff, and doesn’t have a history of doing security background checks before making any new hires.
The largest employment screening firm in India, First Advantage Corp., said few among its around 1,000 clients are in the hospitality business. Audit and consultancy firm KPMG Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd, that also runs background verification checks, said that of its 70 clients, none are hotels.
Hotels often rely on outside contractors to handle tasks from pruning the shrubs to fixing the plumbing. There are at least 30 workers on a five-star hotel’s premises on a given day, a manager at the New Delhi property said, who aren’t vetted by hotel management. The manager did not want his and his employer’s name taken.
While most multinational firms operating in India, as well as many large Indian technology service companies, contract security firms to screen new hires before they are brought on board, the practice has yet to catch on for many smaller Indian companies, says Ashish Dehade, First Advantage’s managing director, West Asia.