Mastering the Challege of Securing a Budget Motel

Article excerpt

FRUSTRATION TEARS THEM APART. Family and friends attend the funeral of Ms. X, who was stabbed to death at the Inn Motel. Grasping for straws, police and family members admit they have no clues.

Ms. X, a 25-year-old businesswoman and civic volunteer, was in town to be a bridesmaid in her best friend's wedding. The victim's family has filed suit against the motel owner. The attorney for the family says the main issues in the suit are lack of security, nonexistent key control, and prior related security incidents.

Motel management will not comment on the pending suit. Police say the killer gained access to the room with a key. A jury trial is planned. It promises to be emotional and have far-reaching ramifications for the hotel and motel industry.

Can this scenario really happen? Yes, and more often than those in the industry care to admit.

Fortunately, most hotels and motels are concerned with security and have measures in place to prevent such violent and unfortunate occurrences. Also, fortunately, many crimes involving hotels and motels do not end up this tragically.

Securing hotels and motels is a challenge because they are open for business 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Consider a budget motel, where that challenge is increased twofold. How is it different? Such a motel has

* exterior entrances to rooms, some with sliding glass doors;

* numerous remote entrances and exits;

* parking right outside each room's door;

* limited staff--usually no security personnel;

* little or no physical security; and

* limited capital resources.

Some security basics are inexpensive and can be implemented quickly, while others involve greater capital expenditure. With the volume of litigation against motels today, owners and operators can't afford not to upgrade facilities. Even though they will put a squeeze on already limited funds, certain protective measures are essential. And on new construction, there is no excuse not to employ the latest security design concepts.

With the exception of safe-deposit boxes at the front desk, which limit a motel's exposure to property loss, no codes or laws require a motel to provide physical security. Courts across the nation have mandated that motels merely take "reasonable" precautions to protect guests from physical harm.

The public has also become more educated. In the last few years, for example, guests have insisted on sprinkler systems and 24-hour security. With an overbuilt lodging market, heavy competition, and fewer people traveling because of the recession, hotel and motel owners are being forced to listen to customers and reevaluate security.

This article explores basic security for budget motels. According to the American Hotel & Motel Association, these facilities typically provide no frills, have one to three stories and 20 to 125 rooms, and make up 80 percent of the total domestic lodging community. WHETHER A FACILITY IS NEW OR 20 YEARS old, basic security programs must be implemented. They involve time but little cost. Here are the basic steps.

Step 1. Managing By Walking Around (MBWA) was first introduced by Tom Peters in his book In Search Of Excellence. It involves getting out in the trenches and seeing what's going on in the business, getting close to customers and employees.

Mom-and-pop operations have practiced MBWA for a while but probably never had a label for it. Multiunit motel chains, however, often lose sight of this key concept, which is essential to running a smooth, successful operation.

MBWA is a caring attitude that is imparted to employees and guests alike. Many security professionals emphasize having a written program and policy.

Although they are important, without a caring attitude and genuine concern for security, all the programs in the world will not stop theft or, worse, violent crimes at the expense of a motel's guests, employees, and business reputation. …