Last week two popular American chain hotels in Jakarta hotels were bombed by terrorists. The attacks on the JW Marriot, which had been bombed before in 2004, and the Ritz-Carlton, also a subsidiary of the Marriot hotel chain, were carried out by terrorists who had registered as guests at the hotels two days before. The bombs went off simultaneously.
Protecting a large hotel from a terrorist attack is particularly difficult. In large cities, such hotels are often very close to the street, so that attackers do not even have to enter the hotel. There are also usually numerous entrances and exits, being utilized by hundreds of hotel guests and employees. It is very easy to slip into such an establishment unnoticed, and if a terrorist were to take the extra step of actually registering as a guest, as the terrorists in Jakarta did, it would be even easier.
There are steps that can be taken however. One such step, that many hotels would be loathe to take, is baggage screening. Instituting a baggage screening policy would be very costly, but for hotels that are attractive terrorist targets like the big American hotels in Jakarta, it is necessary.
As we have for years, Interfor recommends that our clients traveling abroad in that region stay in mid-level European chain hotels. They attract less attention than American chain hotels and luxury landmark hotels which are prime targets for terrorists, thieves and kidnappers. We also recommend staying on a lower floor in a room facing away from the street as bombs often go off right at the front entrance. Higher floors are safer from street level bombs, but making an emergency exit from a high floor may take time that you do not have and fire trucks in some countries may not have ladders capable of reaching those floors. And as always, be aware of the location of exits and stairwells and know exactly how you would exit the hotel in the event of an emergency.