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Singapore Hotel Association – There is always room for security

Find out how the Singapore Hotel Association is playing its part in the SGSecure movement and ensuring that the proper safety and security measures are in place across the hotel industry.

Ms Margaret Heng

The amicable and exemplary Ms Margaret Heng is the Executive Director of the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA). It is reassuring to hear the well-known leader of the hospitality industry assert that SHA is fully committed to counter-terrorism without compromising on hospitality.

As the umbrella body for hotels, with its membership accounting for some 80% of gazetted room count, it is with good reason that SHA is championing this responsibility. Through these 160 hotel members, SHA aims to further the sector's capabilities against terrorism.

With Singapore's global reputation as one of the safest and most secure countries in the world, it seems unthinkable for terrorism to occur here. However, SHA cautions that there can be no room for complacency, given the hospitality industry's global clientele. Hotels, with their heavy tourist inflow and high profile, are potential soft targets for attackers.

So, how does SHA ensure its members remain vigilant and have proper safety and security measures in place?

Security is a role for all, as one

Hotels in Singapore must protect not just themselves, but their guests and customers as well. SHA believes that all members and employees have a significant part to play in creating awareness on the importance of SGSecure. Through its seminars, conferences and webinars, safety and security issues are emphasised so that it becomes top of mind for members. In that vein, SHA, Singapore Police Force (SPF) and National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) conduct a security conference annually with its fellow members, and terrorism has been one of the central themes addressed in the recent years.

"Terrorism is always one of the key focus areas of the seminars and conferences. We have brought in relevant experts to come and share the different aspects of it, as well as case studies of related incidents for our members to learn from." - Ms Margaret Heng, Executive Director, Singapore Hotel Association

On top of these security-related conferences and seminars, SHA also leverages SGSecure resources to augment their workplace safety and health programmes. One case in point is how SHA partnered with SPF and NCPC to co-develop its Hotel Security Manual. SHA brings one-step further to engage its members by organising role-plays, so that they stay acquainted with safety protocols in the Manual.

Furthermore, through the SGSecure@Workplaces programme, SHA ensures that members are equipped with essential skills such as first aid and emergency preparedness planning.

Everyone holds the key to security

Ms Margaret Heng Speaking
"What we can do is to create awareness through the platforms that we have. We cannot have the 'not-me' syndrome and the mindset that 'it's not going to happen to me'. We cannot afford to be complacent. We cannot rest on our laurels. We must always be on the alert and be constantly vigilant" - Ms Margaret Heng, Executive Director, Singapore Hotel Association

The various roles and departments of the hotel - from the front desk staff to security officers and even room attendants - are all vital to building up hotel resilience. According to Ms Heng, it is through sustained engagement with hospitality personnel that the sense of awareness becomes their second nature. The service-based nature of the hospitality industry relies on its people as crucial asset as they serve as the conscientious eyes and ears of a workplace. Having closer interactions with guests, it pays to be prepared – to know what to look out for to prevent and manage crises. In turn, that helps to minimise business downtime and for operations to return to normalcy quickly.

All without compromising the guest experience

Even with the need for preparedness and vigilance, Ms Heng highlights the importance for warmth (the 'heart-ware') to complement the hardware in instituting protection measures. Safety should not become invasive for guests, which is a key point to consider for the hospitality industry.

Most hotels have safety and security features such as CCTVs within their compounds and bollards at entrances. These are complemented by risk management plans and mitigation measures to ensure business continuity. Ms Heng shares that the particular challenge for hotels is to accomplish all of these safeguards without diminishing the guest experience.

"Technology has to be such that it's there to help, not make tourists or citizens feel worried or conscious that their actions are being monitored." - Ms Heng

Partnerships strengthen readiness

Ms Margaret Heng and Ms Sook Yean
Ms Heng (right) with Ms Sook Yean, Senior Director, Membership and Industry Services at SHA (left) who worked closely with the authorities on the implementation of various plans for the hotel industry

SHA and its members regularly collaborates and works closely with government authorities like the Ministry of Manpower, Ministry of Home Affairs (MOM), SPF and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to enhance their emergency preparedness and security measures against terror threats. The hotel industry was selected to be part of the Industry Safety and Security Watch Group (iSSWG) network with SHA representing hotel members in 2008, and the first iSSWG dialogue session was held on 14 January 2009. From time to time, SHA also shares SGSecure@Workplaces bulletins and materials as well as SPF Counter-terrorism advisories with its members to help hotels and staff keep abreast of regional happenings and be equipped to respond in the event of crises.

As early as 2009, SHA hotel members have been participating in counter-terrorism exercises with government authorities. Some of the examples include Shangri-La Rasa Sentosa’s involvement in Exercise Northstar VII in 2009 and Exercise Heartbeat in 2011, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport’s partnership in Exercise Heartbeat in 2019 as well as ONE°15 Marina Club’s and W Singapore – Sentosa Cove's participation in the more recent Exercise Tidal in September 2022.

In addition, SHA is working with Enterprise Singapore to form a Working Group (WG) to review and update the SS545:2009 (2015). This Singapore Standard for hotel security, the first such security standard in the world, provides a framework for hotels to assist them in setting up/ improving their security management system in their respective organisation that would enable them to provide a safe and secure environment to their guests and staff. The WG is co-chaired by SHA and the NCPC with members representing SPF and SHA members hotels.

Strengthening preparedness for the hospitality sector

In one of SHA's project with MOM, the SGSecure@Workplaces Guide for hotels was developed and customised to help hoteliers develop a response plan for a safer, more secure workplace.

Ms Heng is confident that the SGSecure guide for hotels will prove beneficial, and SHA plans to circulate and re-emphasise its contents at workshops and other SHA initiatives. This would help staff in the industry internalise the SGSecure messages and implement them in their respective hotels.

More information on the SGSecure@Workplaces Guide for hotels here.