Key Takeaway
Franchised hotel owners need to ensure that security at their hotels is commensurate with the local threat environment and equal to their managed counterparts. Guests do not differentiate between franchised and managed hotels, Brands will be damaged by security incidents regardless of operating model.

Bridging the Franchised/Managed Hotel Security Gap

Early on in my corporate security career, I was sitting at my desk when I received a report of a serious security incident at a hotel in my area of responsibility. Being new and somewhat naïve, I immediately worked out a plan to find out exactly what had happened, why and to render assistance. Like a puppy seeking his master’s approval, I bound into my line manager’s office to inform him of the incident and my master response plan only to have my bubble deflated when he said ‘don’t bother, it’s a franchise hotel and is off-limits’.  It was patiently explained to me that hotels managed by the company could be supported by corporate security but for legal exposure reasons, franchised hotels could not and would have to deal with it. I was advised to ‘speak to the franchise director and give some links to the relevant security information on the intranet’.

This troubled me and still does because guests are not franchised or managed and should, therefore, be afforded the same levels of security regardless.

I raised concerns about damage to the brand, after all, guests see brands as one entity and will blame the brand, the fact that a hotel might be franchised will cut no ‘mustard’ in the court of public opinion.

Hotel companies might counter that all hotels regardless of brand will have to adhere to Brand Safety and Security Standards, which they do, but in many companies these are rudimentary requirements that take no account of the hotel profile and the ambient and dynamic threat environments in which hotels operate that will differ from country to country and area to area. At managed hotels, corporate security and resilience support fills any gaps between the Safety and Security Standards and the threat environment providing security threat intelligence, policy and procedures guidance, crisis management and incident response support delivered through a control framework to ensure consistency across estates. Franchise properties, by and large, do not have this support and are left to fend for themselves.

Corporate Hotel Security Teams by their nature want to help anyone in trouble and find it frustrating when legal and liability fear prevents them from doing what is instinctive to them. This said, the legal reason for not supporting franchise hotels is compelling and written on a legal notepad entirely reasonable.

Hotel companies will not change so how can commensurate and consistent security be delivered to guests across the franchise managed space?

9 Key Objectives for Franchised Hotel Companies

In my experience, many franchised hotel owning companies do not provide their hotels with security and resilience operational support required to match that given to managed hotels. This is perhaps understandable because the hospitality sector is unregulated from a security perspective so there are negligible legal drivers, hotel operations are complex and require specialist security well versed in hotel operations and it brings additional cost into the operation. Franchised hotel owning companies should seek to:

  1.       Understand the security and resilience threats to their hotels
  2.       Measure the gap between Safety & Security Brand Standards and the actual threat environment in which their hotels operate
  3.       Review security organisation and resources
  4.       Implement physical and procedural security programs in consideration of the threats based on formal assessments, plans, and in line with owning company risk appetite
  5.       Deliver security and resilience training to hotel staff
  6.       Introduce a security and resilience audit program
  7.       Establish a maturity model to gauge hotel security and resilience performance
  8.       Develop a security incident investigation and response capability
  9.       Work out formal Crisis Management ways of working with the hotel branding company to ensure alignment in the event of a major crisis

These suggestions are a high-level overview and of course, the devil is in the detail and the ‘art’ is in their operational application.

It is also interesting that owners of managed hotels rarely, if ever, conduct formal reviews to ensure that the management companies are managing the security and resilience risks to their assets; this is particularly pertinent given the culling of Corporate Hotel Security teams; owning company risk oversight will be the subject of a future blog.

Travellers and travel managers alike are increasingly aware of the gap between security and resilience support brands offer to managed vs franchised hotels that carry the same name. NorthPoint International can help bridge that gap. NorthPoint International provides consulting for the hospitality industry. If your organization needs assistance with strategies, programs, plans, or leadership advisement, please contact us