Global terrorism: Responding to a change in modus operandis

Terrorism and political violence has always been on the risk register of leisure and hospitality firms. However, the threat landscape is evolving with major groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula specifically targeting civilians and public buildings, including stadiums, music venues and hotels. In 2016, nearly 60 percent of the 25,621 deaths that arose from terrorist attacks targeted private citizens, according to the Institute for Economics & Peace.

The 14-hour siege at one of Kabul’s principal hotels in January 2018 is a reminder of the threat. However, leisure and hospitality venues in OECD countries are not immune. Attacks in 2017 included the Manchester Arena bombing in May and Las Vegas concert shooting in October.

“Ultimately, you’re a hospitality business so you’re trying to keep the front door open and you welcome everybody in, but you have to be aware of your surrounding environment in a proportionate way,” says Ludlow.

Devastating marauding attacks in Mumbai (2008), Tunisia (2015) and Kabul (2018) have shown how a small number of attackers (or lone gunman) can cause significant loss of life if they are able to breach hotel security. While their lobbies and public areas are vulnerable, hotels can go into lockdown to prevent attackers accessing all parts of the building.

Active shooter training may be appropriate in certain locations, with staff taught to “detect, delay, deny (access) and defend”. Countering the threat is all about gathering intelligence on potential threats and vulnerabilities and having clear plans in place to protect people and assets, says Ludlow.

“You have your plans to shelter and evacuate in place. In the extreme when your hotel is being stormed by gunmen, you need to know where to put your guests, what the escape routes are and where you put your staff which is typically in front of the guests.”

There is generally more warning when it comes to political violence. During the Arab Spring, Ludlow, who was at the time president of global risk at IHG, was sharing and receiving daily intelligence with the embassies in Cairo and other hotels so he could understand what was happening in the external environment and who was in political control at any one time.

“When it comes to civil unrest you need to know if you are you going to provide water and food for the people outside your hotel — to let them come in and charge their mobiles and use the facilities — or whether to pretend you’re not there and turn your lights out at night. In Cairo, it was clear the rioters had their eyes on our food, our water and our money and they wanted to smash the place up. So that’s when you put the defences up.”

April 2018