From damaged buildings to security issues, running a property goes hand in hand with a wide range of risks – and mitigating them can seem like a fine art, particularly if you are just starting out in the industry. Owners and managers face challenges including property deterioration, theft and – in the worst cases – natural disasters and terrorism.
Often, the issues encountered are simple wear and tear – but this can still be prevented by savvy proprietors. Sean Caulfield, Owner of villa rental outfit To Tuscany, believes that explaining how things work to guests will not only reduce the risk of breakages, but also enhance guest experience. He says: “Leave out house instructions in a variety of languages, so guests from all countries understand how to use the property equipment correctly. This will help prevent costly repairs while also ensuring guests enjoy a more seamless holiday.”
He also stresses the importance of communication. “I have had thousands of euros worth of damage caused by poolside umbrellas being left up in wind. I now contact guests when I know poor weather is approaching, reminding them to put them down,” he explains. Caulfield also suggests saving money by using LED lights and positioning air conditioning controls beside windows (sensors switch the air conditioning off when windows are opened).
Common in-room damage such as scuffed walls and chipped furniture can be reduced by using corner guards and applying multiple coats of high quality paint, Mitul Patel, Capital Planning Manager for Hawkeye Hotels, suggests. But he adds: “No matter how much you plan, there is no accounting for the unexpected. A broken pipe can be disastrous. To reduce damage, we train our staff to stay calm and to assess and diffuse any situation quickly.”
Peter Hales, Managing Director of one of Europe’s leading Hotel Management, Asset Management and Consultancy companies Michels & Taylor, agrees staff training is key to success. He says: “The biggest risk to a property is actually its own team members, because they are using the hotel every day, managing everything from fire safety to food safety, so they have the biggest impact. When you get your staff training right they can also be your biggest asset in minimising risk to guests, the building and themselves.”
Guest and staff security
Clearly, ensuring both guest and staff security is vitally important – but a good hotel will do this effortlessly. Hales says: “The journey between the lobby and guest rooms needs to feel secure, and staff need to be vigilant with the right training on security awareness. But you need to strike a balance – you want to ensure guest safety without being intrusive.”
CCTV coverage, traceable key entry in lifts and public areas, and maintaining a well-lit car park, lobby and corridors can help your guests feel more safe. But security measures don’t always have to be costly or complicated, according to Mitul Patel. “Simple approaches are often the most effective,” he says. “For example, hotels can keep guests’ identities confidential by not announcing their names or room numbers during check-in.”
Stefan Hiller, Founder and Managing Director of Sky Touch Global Hotel Security Consulting, advises those new to the industry to get an external opinion from an independent security consultant. You can then put a plan in place by building a risk mitigation strategy from the report (which usually costs around £1,000-2,000, depending on the size of the property and nature of the business). “It’s best to do this before you even open your property to the public. A lot of hotels fail because they do it too late,” he says.
If you’re already running a hotel, Hiller advises getting an audit and certification in hotel security, so your property stands out as one that has everything in place. “Security is always going to be a cost factor. However, the price of not putting a plan in place can be far higher,” he says.
Thankfully technology is at hand to make life easier should the worse happen. Crisis management apps are frequently used for mass-notification and offline document sharing in case of an emergency such as fire, power outage or cyber attack. Francesca Taylor, Marketing Communications Executive at YUDU, the app development company behind app Sentinel, says businesses have great emergency plans, but in an emergency people often forget about them or they’re not accessible.
“Having an app like Sentinel that can speed up a response to a crisis has brought down the insurance premiums for our clients [Lloyds underwriters indicates savings of between 10-20%], and means that if a fire, terror attack or extreme weather event hits, expensive down time is reduced,” she says. “Brick and mortar can be rebuilt, but the loss of reputation from failing to respond quickly and appropriately to an emergency has the potential for far more damage for hoteliers.”
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Hero image: credit to Jilbert Ebrahimi
- Communicate with your guests – whether that’s leaving out house instructions or keeping them abreast of poor weather, it will pay to talk to them
- Staff training is key – your team members are one of your biggest risks, but a well-managed, knowledgeable team is also one of your biggest assets
- CCTV, electronic key access and good lighting are some of the security measures that will help guest feel safe – but it’s vital to strike a balance between ensuring guest safety and not being intrusive
- Consider investing in technology, such as a crisis management app, to help reduce property risk – it could save you money in the long-term
- Seek expert advice – whether you have just started out or are already running a property, it’s a good idea to get an external opinion from an independent security consultant, and put a plan in place from there