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Hotel Industry Needs To Take Recent Incidents To Heart

Monday August 15th, 2011 - 6:33AM


Dennis Nessler, Editor, Hotel Business

We’ve all had those moments in a downtown, high-rise hotel where we look out at the city below from our guestroom and say “wow, what a view.” And, at least in my case, that’s generally followed by a more sobering thought such as “this is really high up, if I fell from here I’d be a goner for sure.”

If you’re like me, the latter thought usually keeps you a healthy distance from the window at such a point. Of course, you always assume there’s no way they could break, regardless of how hard you might crash into them. However, unfortunately for one woman in Atlanta, we found out these windows can indeed break.

LaShawna Threatt, a 30-year-old model, was killed when she and her girlfriend fell out the 10th floor window at the W Atlanta Midtown hotel. Meanwhile, the W brand also had an issue with its hotel in Austin as glass on the 24th floor of the building broke and came crashing down. Fortunately in this case, no one was hurt. Officials for W say the incidents are completely unrelated and involve two different types of windows.

Needless to say lawsuits have followed and investigations are being conducted. The W brand, and parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, has a lot of damage control to do obviously. However, before you finger the brand you need to understand that in Atlanta, for example, the fire codes there prevent the glass from being too thick and building inspections were routinely done as well. There were also reports of horseplay in the room in Atlanta and no one knows how hard the two women hit the window.

Nevertheless, both incidents should serve as a reminder about how important it is for hoteliers, not to mention developers, to get every detail right. Things that most of us take for granted when we enter a hotel can become major issues if they are not done right. Think of all the potential hazards that exist where guests can be injured from elevators to pools to simple household items like the irons and coffee makers in the rooms.

In addition, you have an economic environment where capital expenditures on hotels have in many cases been put off longer than usual. In the case of some of the newly built properties, we all know how much pressure contractors have been under to get the buildings up as cheaply as possible as owners struggle for financing. Are corners being cut on the construction side? I have no evidence to make such a claim but it’s not an unreasonable assumption since just about every business has emphasized cost cutting. 

If anything good can come out of this tragedy, perhaps it will give others hotels pause to more closely examine all the details of their respective properties. But the business of hospitality is truly a team effort, so every professional in the business—from purchasing companies to suppliers—needs to reflect on these events and make sure we are all working toward the same goal and that is the comfort and, most importantly, safety of the guest. Because after all, there’s no price that can be put on that.