The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Checkout alive – The ultimate hospitality

Leisure sector safety

‘Thud !’ was the banging noise on the tarmac in a flash – out of the blue. It was the airborne cart-wheeling guest who just fell on the hard ground from a high-rise terrace of a celebrated city hotel. That marked the tragic end of an overseas guest who would have been ushered to the reception with a sunny smile – perhaps a few minutes – hours or days before. It leaves us a bitter recollection of yet another real life lesson on ‘checked in with smiles – and checked out with tears’ scenario. That’s an express way to portray the tragic death of a guest within a hotel or a resort.

It was not long ago a female tourist was sexually battered. Her travel partner was brutally killed in a vicious invasion of privacy and eventual naked violence by a gang of thugs. In another incident, a guest fell from a high elevation of a city hotel and tragically died on the blacktop. In the latest incident, another guest fell from a height in a city hotel and wrecked his life instantly. This is apart from attempted molestation of foreign tourists in the beaches, pestering by irksome touts lined up at the airport site itself, deceitful pricing on the way – and the wasp attacks on tourists on sightseeing excursions. Finally, all scale down to the reality benchmark of welcoming (or unwelcoming) safety and security at the destination – be it a country, metropolitan, hotel or a resort. The challenge entails a meaningful synergy in regulatory domain and leisure industry to find healthier solutions from broad perspectives.

Window of growth
The landscape for tourism has never been at this best for decades in Sri Lanka. We certainly are experiencing operational constraints, but the prospective setting has dawned in tangible sense to convert the positivity into an evolving inflow. In creating and expanding this growth window, the following requisites should win precedence over the other cosmetically trendy arrangements.

  •  Safe passage of travel
  • Safe environment
  •  Safe accommodation
  •  Safe food and beverage
  •  Security of guest effects

The significant failures of the above gradually breed indigestive negative branding for both the destination and the leisure industry as a whole. Sadly, the emphasis on these ‘hidden pillars of tourism’ is seemingly placed on a less priority bracket – in hourly practice – both by the authorities and the managements – compared to the emphasis they muster on the statutory and aesthetic features of the leisure business. This could be a reason why we prefer downplaying the tragedies instead of bringing them into the open forum to device sturdy solutions based on practical sensibility and enterprise acumen.

We need to  understand  that the safety certificates hanging on the wall alone do not fight hotel fires or evacuate screaming guests in Tsunami warnings and prevent in-house life tragedies. It is organized and hazard trained people who save others from abrupt peril – and not mere certificates and associate endorsements.

Immoral facilitation
After a life tragedy, there is hardly any point in trying to be(demonstratively) wise. It may bring some consolation from a future centric perspective. But, we cannot re-create the lost lives or erase the black-stain on the brand icon in the definite. There could be attempts to downplay such laxity by catapulting the theories of suicide jump, accidental fall or pushed down by another. Yet, in an ambiance of self-regulated guest safety and voluntary commitment for guest wellbeing, a hotel must design its ‘optimum feasible pro-active precautions’ to block those potential life risk avenues. Thus, the hotel or the resort keeps away from facilitating a life tragedy within – while saving their guests to breathe another day. As a safety verse simply but vibrantly enlightens us – ‘Ignoring a warning early can cause much mourning lately’. It’s time for sharp reflective learning.

Guest protection
Guest protection is an extended territory of safety, different to standard corporate settings. In a responsible leisure venue – the safety of staff, the safety of in-house guests and the safety of visiting guests generate prime management accountability – though not in instant visibility. There are scores of professionally pragmatic safety precautions specific for kids, female guests, high-spirited merry makers, elders, pregnant, disable and medically challenged guests. Even the visitors with casual and dicey attitudes – once greeted in – becomes a wellbeing responsibility of the venue – and thus, ought to be integrated in the floor specific safety planning and guest interfacing.
The precautionary spectrum extending to behavioural safety, functional safety, utility safety, layout safety and structural design safety, etc formulates a few on the vital listing. Ensuring guest safety in the parks, lobbies, rooms, balconies, pools, banquets, lifts, sport centres and private beaches (including emergencies), etc surely is a complicated mission, but not beyond achievability – when led with passionate competence.

Ultimate hospitality
In the realm of leisure solutions, it is vital that the guest comforts are at the best fit model – together with cheery service delivery. The array of leisure options with a diverse blend of food and beverage makes it a memorable venue. But that is not all. The responsibility of the officials and the management is to transform the grins of the guests on arrival, into beaming smiles on departure. Turning all stones to ensure that the guests are ‘checked-out alive’ is the ultimate hospitality that a hotel can gift to promote repeat visitation and industry stability.

Brands too are like people – and even a single safety mishap carry the potentiality of killing a business overnight. As Warren Buffet echoes his proven wisdom – ‘It takes 20 years to build a business and five minutes to ruin it. When you understand this, you will do things differently’. The message is loud and clear! Are we listening?

(The writer is Corporate Risks & ERP / BCP Specialist and the CEO of Strategic Risk Solutions. He can be reached at solutions@sltnet.lk or via web www.solutions.lk).

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