Since the November 27, attacks in Mumbai, it has been widely reported in the media that the Taj hotel in Mumbai, India had warnings that there may be a terrorist attack there. The owner, Ratan Tata, did not inform the public of these warnings. Is this just business as usual or should business travelers and tourists who had plans to stay in the hotel been alerted to possible danger? Do all decisions revolve around profits? Does the “dirty lucre” rule all?
Is there legal liability for withholding information from guests that their lives may be in danger or is this simply caveat emptor (buyer beware) at the most base level? Are hotel guests due a warming of possible danger before they sign into the hotel?
I believe it should have been announced to the public that the Taj was under threat of terrorism. Families bringing their children on vacation should certainly not stay in a hotel that is at imminent risk of attack. Hotel guests may have taken extra security measures had they known of the threat of terrorism in that specific location. Many travelers may have maintained their reservations at the Taj. People become very attached to hotels; if they always stay there they may have continued to utilize the hotel even during times of terror warnings.
However, by keeping the news of threats to the Taj private, the owner took away the chance for guests to make an informed decision about whether they wanted to take the risk of staying there. Forever now any guests who stay at the Taj will know that the hotel has been attacked once and it may be attacked again. Just like with the WTC, if terrorists have decided they want to take down the Taj they may strike again.
Businesses exist to make money. That is a given. However, in extreme circumstances such as possible terrorism should money be the first priority or should people come first? Why didn’t the Taj maintain the enhanced security they had for a short time after they received the potential terrorism alert? Why don’t all high profile hotels throughout the world have a constantly updated disaster plan with totally up to date diagrams of the floor plan and directions on how to ensure safety of guests and staff during an emergency?
The International Herald Tribune reports that “police and commandos had old blueprints of the massive, labyrinthine Taj hotel that did not clearly show how passageways were connected or blocked or recent construction.”
The least a guest could expect is that the owner and management would have a disaster plan in place that would ensure commandos could immediately know the layout of the building and all other information that would aid their ability to secure the building.
During the years that I traveled for business I noticed that even the most luxurious of hotels were wide open. It was easy to tell that all that stood between guests and any evil that may wander in off the street was the hotel door to the room. That really is not acceptable in today’s world. I have stayed in youth hostels where one has to show security and a room pass every time one attempts to enter the building. I always felt more secure at the hostels than I did at fancy hotels. Most hotels have many entrances and too many of them are completely open to who ever wants to enter.
Guests at hotels need to do more research now it seems to ensure they will have a safe experience at the hotel they choose. Should hotels be required to announce any terrorist threats made to the hotel? This certainly seems wise if a business wants to make the safety of guests their first priority. However, too often money is the sole purpose of a business. Businesses only change their ways once it becomes apparent legal liability will cost them more than taking the safety precautions that could save lives.