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How Safe is Your Hotel Room?

The recent arrest of International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, currently being held without bail for allegedly attacking a 32-year-old maid, once again raises the question: how safe is my hotel?

Whether you are male or female, the same issues persist both inside and outside of your individual hotel room

A 2009 Cornell University study of nearly 5,500 U.S. hotels revealed significant differences in security based on the hotels' sizes, ages, and locations (e.g., urban, airport, small town). Perhaps unsurprisingly, it found that luxury and upscale hotels, airport and urban hotels, large properties, and new hotels are most likely to maintain a high level of safety and security amenities. Meanwhile, older, small, and budget motels are the properties most challenged in providing those safety and security features.

Urban, suburban, and airport hotels appear to score higher on safety and security than do hotels located along highways, in resorts, or small metropolitan areas,

But that study doesn't go far enough in giving us enough practical information that business travelers can use to truly assess the safety of their hotels--and of their rooms.

It all really gets down to the questions you need to ask before you ever confirm a reservation or get your keys at the front desk.

Key Questions to Ask

  • How thorough are the background checks on employees? This doesn't apply to just terrorism concerns, but also misdemeanors and felonies.
  • Are there security cameras? Every entrance and exit and every hallway should be covered by security cameras, and so should parking lots.
  • Does the hotel have many entrances to the street or one or two? The fewer entrances, the more effective the monitoring systems.
  • Are incoming cars inspected before they pull up in front of the lobby or inside the parking lot? This is unlikely in a U.S. hotel, but common in countries that are on alert for terrorism
  • Do the room locks have commercial locks with hinges? Is it a steel-framed, self-locking door, double-locking deadbolt, complete with peep-hole and chain?
Tips when Checking In:
  • This is especially important for women business travelers: Never accept a room key if the front desk clerk hands it to you and verbally announced the room number.
  • Do not be shy: Ask to be escorted to your room by a uniformed member of the staff. Why? You don't want to become a victim of a "push in" crime. All too often, criminals will follow women travelers into the elevator, and wait for them to push their desired floor. then the criminal will push a button for a higher floor. When the woman traveler exits the elevator, the criminal will hold the elevator door and wait, then exit and slowly follow her down the hall. and at the precise moment that the woman guest takes out her card key and puts it in the slot, the criminal will run up behind her and as the door is being opened, push it in behind her and suddenly they are BOTH inside the room together...with nowhere to go, and no one to call, for help
Inside the Room
  • Don't open your door to anyone without at least checking the peephole.
  • Don't use the Please Clean the Room sign; instead call housekeeping when you want the room cleaned.
  • Let housekeeping know that no one is allowed to be in the room when they're cleaning.
Do you have any other safety tips in international or domestic hotels?
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