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Andy Williams, Vice President Quality Assurance & Business Development for Safehotels Alliance AB

Safety and security is one of the top concerns of travellers when they travel either for leisure or for business. Safety and security is not only referring to political stability and threat of terrorism. It's about every possible incident that can affect the health of a person in a small "society" like for example a hotel.  Mr Andy Williams, Vice President Quality Assurance & Business Development for Safehotels Alliance AB talks to TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific about Safety and Security measures in hotels.

TravelDailyNews: When we speak about safety and security in a hotel what exactly includes? Is it about terrorism threat or fire, or includes also other minor incidents? Give us some examples.
Andy Williams: Safety and Security in a hotel will vary by hotel type e.g. business hotel or resort hotel, guest profile e.g. corporate or leisure and hotel location within a city, town, country. From a guest safety and security perspective there are generally 5 types of safety and security related risks : 1. Fire (within the hotel or hotel grounds) – 2. personal injury or accidents (requiring first aid or medical care) -3. theft of property (from guest room storage or public areas of a hotel or hotel grounds)  – 4. violent crime ( such as robbery using a weapon or personal assault) -5.  emergency or crisis incidents (these can range from a heart attack – to a tsunami to a terrorist incident. And Emergency or Crisis Incident is known as ‘low probability – high impact’ and is not something a hotel can always prevent or control , but the hotel can respond and recover to the event or incident.
TDN: From your experience, which are the more “sensitive” geographical areas regarding safety and security issues in hotels and which are the more advanced countries?
A.W:This depends on what and how you define safety and security incidents – looking at the five categories listing in question above  Fire – personal injury/accident – theft – violent crime – emergency/crisis incident. All these risks can be found in any country or location in the world. I would not use the word ‘advance countries’ or even ‘developed countries’  – much of what is related to safety and security is more dependent on risk perception and risk appetite in a country or culture.  If we take terrorism then this is a global issue – mainly focused in areas of the Middle East and Africa but also in Europe – some areas are more sensitive to others – now area is low risk whether a country is so called ‘advanced’ or not.   If we take natural disasters then APAC region has a higher and more frequent occurrence rate – however because of this it could be said these countries respond and recover more quickly than if the same happened in an ‘advanced’ country with no regular experience. If we look at fire or general theft or crime then this can be a greater risk in developing countries as there may not be as much resource, training or experience in dealing with such matters as a developed country has.
TDN: I suppose that all the big hotel brands they have their own risk management plans… What can Safehotels offer to them more? 
A.W: Big hotels do have their own risk management plans, standards and procedures and these on the whole are very good. However due to their very size they can only generally monitor and verify them by self assessment by each individual hotel or by select hotel or location if the hotel group has their own internal safety and security team. Equally big brands are usually a mix of franchised, managed, leased or owned operated. This means only a minimum basic level of safety and security may be in place , rather than consistent best practice. E.g. a well known hotel brand within the same city may have both managed and franchised brands – they may both have fore sprinkler systems as a brand standard however the maintenance , training and operation of the systems could vary between the managed and franchised hotels significantly. This is something the guest does not always know.
What safehotels does is independently and as a third party verify the standards and procedures a brand has in place to ensure they are to a consistent level and standard no matter what country or city, managed or franchise operating level they are. This then both awards and recognises the standards and best practice and hotel brand has in place – also offers ‘new eyes’ and ‘perspectives’ – then communicates to the hotel room buyer a consistent and global level of safety and security assurance. This is similar to say a hotel restaurant strives for Michelen stars or Rosettes, or demonstrates sustainability and environmental credentials by going for a ‘Green Award’.
TDN: For small and medium size hotels or family run hotels it may sound like a “luxury” to invest in a safety and security certificate or hire specialized security officer of company. A certificate from the fire department and the minimum requirements of the local laws to get their operating license may sound more than enough for them. What would you suggest to them?
A.W: For SME hotels the certificate can be even more relevant – especially as the certificate and standard is not always about bringing in or hiring security officers – its more about ‘security and safety is everyone’s business’ In this case all employees of an SME hotel can benefit from being security and safety aware – security and safety trained – crisis and emergency prepared. This is not always something they can go to a ‘hotel big brand operations manual to get’ – it’s not something local authorities such as police or fire brigade will necessarily provide for an SME business. Equally as safehotels certification focuses on the human and people element of safety and security – this is the one element of hospitality where an SME hotel can have an advantage over a big brand or big hotel – the guest likes a boutique independent hotel because of the personal service – equally they expect that personal service to extend to their safety and security.
So far as meeting minimum laws and being inspected by the fire department – if a hotel wants to be ‘minimum’ in terms of safety and security whether large brand or SME , this is of course their prerogative . However if you asked someone as a guest or hotel room buyer – ‘Would you prefer to stay in a hotel with minimum standards of safety and security or a hotel with globally recognised, independently verified best practice standards ?’ Then the answer is likely to be the latter – equally in terms of room rate some guess are prepared to pay.
TDN: How the consumers (leisure or corporate traveller) know and understand the value of a Safehotels Certificate? 
A.W: Very simply by recognition. Safehotels is a trust symbol and those hotels certified through the safehotels plaque at the hotel entrance , to feature on the safehotels website to receiving a copy of the safehotels certificate in an RFP return. What safehotels alliance is now doing is going out to the consumers and raising profile and understanding of the certification through hotel associations, organisations such as PATA, ICCA, UNISDR.
Overtime consumers should also see the benefit of staying and using safehotels through reduced safety and security incidents or if an incident does occur the hotel knows how to handle and recover it.
TDN: In hotel business and especially in resort hotels there is a big rate of staff rotation. How much this affects the level of safety and security procedures?
A.W: This is a very good question and a challenge – the fact is labour turnover in the hotel industry is high where front line employees are concerned. This can have an impact on safety and security e.g. if night staff are constantly leaving or staying in the position no more than a couple of months then where is the incentive for the hotel to ensure at least one member of night staff is trained in first aid and CPR – or how will employees respond and coordinate during an emergency, if they have never had a training exercise together or there are always new faces when there are. This is something the certification takes into account with the Global Hotel Safety and Security Standard of Safehotels requiring regular training of staff in safety and security from the first week they are employed to every month and every three monthly intervals. Addressing the issue of high labour turnover is another example of safehotels certification as a trust symbol for the consumer.
TDN: For “Eco-Friendly” or “Green” hotels there are plenty of labels and certificates which at the end confuse both the hoteliers and the consumers. What is the situation for “Safe” hotels?
A.W: Uniquely for safehotels – we are the only Global Hotel Safety and Security Standard and Certification out there – no-one else is yet to take up this hugely important initiative for the hotel and meetings industry – we literally are the  world’s ‘Standard Bearers’ for hotel safety and security.


* Andy Williams is VP Business Development and Quality Assurance for Safehotels Alliance AB since 2012. Prior to this Andy had over 15 years experience at hotel operational, regional and corporate level overseeing safety and security risk management from owned, managed and franchise perspectives for companies such as: Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Forte and Whitbread.
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TravelDailyNews Asia-Pacific editorial team has an experience of over 35 years in B2B travel journalism as well as in tourism & hospitality marketing and communications.