Col Sandeep Sudan (Retd.),

Senior Vice President,

Global Corporate Security,

Reliance Industries Limited.


  1. How has security in the hospitality industry evolved over the years?

There has been a paradigm shift in dealing with the security issues post 26/11 attacks, as far as the Indian hospitality industry is concerned. Previously there was very little focus on aspects related to security as it was seen as a hinderance to the business, since it hampered in the aim to achieve ‘Customer Delight’ and also intruded into the privacy of the guest. At the same time the emphasis was more on manpower-based security rather than using high tech security automation equipment. Additionally, training of security manpower was neglected. Invariably, security was dovetailed once the construction was over and business operations had commenced.      

Over the years physical security has incorporated use of high-tech security automation equipment.  Security Risk Assessment (SRA) is conducted prior to construction and based on the threats identified,     risk mitigation plan is incorporated in the design stage itself in terms of the people, process and technology. The security infrastructure, security automation equipment along with the security manpower required and processes are duly considered and incorporated from the very outset. 

With the evolution of data, high end technology-based solutions and use of social media; besides physical security, aspects related to cyber and information security, as also brand protection have assumed importance.


  1. Why is the hospitality industry vulnerable to risks?

The hospitality industry is vulnerable to risks because of the service orientation of the industry and the nature of business where all the guests are welcomed. The hospitality industry includes hotels, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line, traveling, airline, etc.  Each of these categories have their own set of risks. Over a period of time the rouge elements have identified hospitality industry as a soft target.

Hotels are recognized as a guests’ ‘Home away from home’ and as such no one would appreciate perceiving their home as being hostile or denied of warmth, service and care. As a result, credential verification of all the people entering the hotel premises becomes a challenge. At the same time the industry does not have any armed guards who are suitable equipped to deal with any terrorist attack. Thus any kind of bad guest experience can adversely impact the brand, in this age of proactive media and social media.



  1. In the current digital era, talk about the physical security in hotels.

In the current digital era besides technology; people and processes are a key component that enhances the physical security in hotels. As the famous Army saying goes ‘it is the man behind the gun who is critical’ and plays a key role towards attaining the goal. Thus, it is a combination of people, process and technology that will lead to effective risk mitigation of the physical security challenges. As any terrorist threat, theft of guest / hotel property / vehicle, disorderly conduct and handling any crisis will require physical intervention. 

The concept of Role, Time and Zone (RTZ) will continue to be important from a physical security standpoint. It reduces the opportunity for breaching security, since any staff member is permitted to have access to a floor / area, in a particular shift, based on his role / job profile.

  1. What are the common security challenges that the industry is currently grappling with?


  1. The common security challenges that the hospitality industry is grappling with are:
  2. Maintaining a fine balance between the delivery of exceptional customer service and maintaining a safe and secure environment, in a controllable but minimally intrusive ways.
  3. Maintaining cost effective security operations.
  4. Lack of trained manpower to handle the high-tech security automation equipment, as also security operations, service standards and crisis management.
  5. High attrition rates of out sourced security manpower.
  6. At the same time the industry has to deal with different type of threats:
  7. Terrorism which can manifest in terms of active shooter, bomb threat to include suicide bomber, blast using vehicle based improvised explosive device (VBIED).
  8. Breach of cyber and information security because of:
  9.    Handling sensitive personal data of the guests e.g. name, passport details, credit card information, guest travel plans, air miles, email addresses, phone numbers, date of birth, etc
  10.    Use of high-tech security automation equipment e.g. Drones, Perimeter Intrusion Detection System (PIDS), CCTV cameras, boom barriers, automatic bollards, Under Vehicle Surveillance Systems (UVSS), baggage X Ray scanners, metal detectors, explosive detectors, biometric and facial recognition systems, video analytics, alarm systems, command and control systems, and communication equipment and other similar equipment.

                     iii.   Use of home automation equipment e.g. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), automatic lights, windows, curtains, digital locks and lockers, etc.

  1.    Use of technology-based solutions to enhance customer experience e.g. Wi-Fi, voice assisted technology solutions, data analytics, artificial intelligence, etc.
  2. Theft of guest and hotel property.
  3. Unauthorized visitors.
  4. Theft of vehicle.
  5. Disorderly conduct.
  6. Security and safety emergencies.

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