Hotels must keep up-to-date with security developments in wake of terror attacks: Sim Ann

SINGAPORE - With hotels being hit by terror attacks in different parts of the world, Singapore hotels must keep up-to-date with the latest security technology and developments to enhance hotel safety.

These were points raised by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Trade & Industry and Culture, Community and Youth, on Friday (May 19).

"Each year, 200 million passengers pass through our borders. We cannot be sure none of them harbour ill-intentions towards our safety and security," said Ms Sim in her opening address at the Hotel Industry Safety and Security Watch Group's counter-terrorism seminar.

This is the ninth run of the seminar, which was attended by some 200 participants from the hotel industry.

Ms Sim cited the terror attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta in July 2009. The attacks, in which two suicide bombers from a Jemaah Islamiyah splinter group detonated improvised explosive devices, killed nine people and injured 50 others.

In June last year, a suicide bomber also detonated a vehicle laden with explosives at the gate of the Nasa Hablod hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing at least 15 people and wounding 20.

"We count ourselves fortunate that such attacks have not taken place in Singapore. But we cannot assume that they will never happen here," she added.

Hotels can adopt security practices such as training ambassadors to look out for suspicious behaviour, said Mr Jasni Taha, security manager of French luxury hotel Sofitel So.

For example, staff should keep an eye on guests who pay in cash and refuse to provide their credit card details or personal identification.

To tighten hotel security, Sofitel has ensured that its portable credit card terminals are secured with anti-tamper stickers, to prevent skimming and hacking.

It has also implemented other measures, such as keeping a copy of their guests' passports for reference purposes.

Said Ms Margaret Heng, executive director of the Singapore Hotel Association: "In today's heightened security environment where no country is immune to terrorist attacks, the hotel industry is playing its part in the SGSecure movement by being vigilant.

"In addition to hardening their premises, hotels are also looking at training and putting in place processes to strengthen their defence against terrorism."

The SGSecure national movement seeks to sensitise, train and mobilise Singaporeans in preventing terrorism and dealing with its aftermath.

Mr Eddie Goh, fire safety and security manager at Hotel Royal, said that hotel staff need to be alert at all times. "The greatest challenge is knowing how to resume operations in the aftermath of a terror attack," he said.