Daybook · On Places & Travel

Preventing the Next Mumbai?

A good friend wrote to me yesterday and asked whether I was planning to change the way that I traveled, given what's happened in Mumbai, and given that I stayed at the Taj.

Here's what I said:

I guess I'm somewhere between naive and fatalistic, but I don't feel differently about traveling…I guess I feel like bad things can happen anywhere, it seems equally likely that a gunman will open fire on Fifth Avenue, as it does that my hotel will be taken over by terrorists.

I have stayed in hotels more recently that have taken a more active role with security. There wasn't any visible security at the Taj when I stayed there in March, but when I stayed at the Swissotel in Izmir [Turkey], which had terrorist attacks earlier in 2007, all guests walked through metal detectors, all cars were stopped outside the hotel and swept for bombs. In Latin America, hotels are frequently heavily guarded by men with machine guns. I suppose that's the future, hotels becoming more like airports, hardened. I guess we'll soon be taking off our shoes in the lobby…

I've been looking around online to see what info is out there about protecting "soft targets" like hotels, since obvously, hotels didn't become targets this week. There's not that much as of yet.  But check out this 2002 story from the Telegraph –it's pretty chilling–about a cache of videos showing Al Qaeda training to attack a western hotel.  Here's a checklist on hotel security and room choice security. And here, a release on the result of a Cornell University study of upgraded security procedures after 9/11.

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