Negative reviews and decreased occupancy… the price paid for the wrong in-room safe, Jane Ram discovers

These days an in-room safe is taken for granted as a built-in feature in virtually any hotel guest-room. The design still tends to be rather basic but, by comparison with other high tech in-room features, there are few surprises, good or bad.

“Safety and security are a top priority for hotel guests with expected services to include routine premise patrolling, quality door locks, good interior/exterior lighting, and in-room safes,” says Philip Toh, Safemark’s VP sales Asia-Pacific.

“Hotels that disregard proper security measures are likely to be hit with negative forum reviews and ultimately decreased occupancy,” he warns. Guests want in-room safes, says Toh. “While not every guest travels with a 17” laptop, installing a safe that accommodates larger electronics ensures there is adequate room to secure multiple devices, jewellery, travel documents, and other personal valuables. Convenient, 24/7 access to a user-friendly safe is also critical to the guest.

“The last thing a guest wants to do is wait at the front desk to store or retrieve their laptop when going out for the evening.”

Answering needs the ideal safe should have a built-in recharging socket for use while a laptop is in the safe. An in-room safe gives guests peace of mind as they do not need to worry about valuable items that they don’t want to carry around when they leave their room, says Alan Ip, deputy manager hotel operations and training at Hong Kong’s Hotel & Tourism Institute (HTI).

“From a hotel operator’s point of view, in-room safes help to lessen our workload as compared to before when the front office team had to help store the guests’ valuables. “Nowadays, however, an in-room safe is a standard hotel feature and guests can easily comprehend its operation as most such safes are not challenging to operate and reset.” Ip says he regards the in-room safe as more than an additional value-added feature to enhance guest satisfaction.

“It also gives us an opportunity to impress guests. It is not unusual for guests to forget their items in the safe. At The T Hotel, HTI’s training hotel, one guest left his passport in the safe. We found it shortly after he checked out and our students immediately left to deliver the passport to him at the airport, which enabled him to catch his flight on-time. He was very impressed by our service, while the students learnt a good lesson about what it means to go the extra mile in providing guest service as well.” An in-room safe gives guests peace of mind, says Toh, and it also helps the hotel minimise in-room theft and eliminates accountability from hotel staff. It’s a false economy to buy cheap safes, he argues.

“Poorly constructed safes that lack proper override capabilities and other key security features cost management time and money while tarnishing the hotel’s reputation. “Unfortunately, some hotels still attempt to cut corners by purchasing inferior safes. Initially, these low-end safes work fine – it’s when there’s an alleged theft that the hotel will regret cutting corners. Without the ability to provide evidence that the safe was not compromised by a copied key or master code, the hotel owners may find themselves in a costly legal situation.

“Low-end safes are typically installed with an active master code, non-existent or easily copied override key, and inadequate audit trail. Proper training and software setup is often skipped when hotels opt for inferior safes, leading to guest service issues. “Videos of these low-end safes often appear in the news or on the internet demonstrating that a simple tool or code can be used to open the safe. Adverse stories like this underscore that a safe is only as good as the technology inside and the company behind the design, installation and support.”

Safemark’s commitment to quality has garnered loss prevention approvals from leading hotel chains around the world, says Toh. “Our safes are carefully engineered to strict standards to ensure durability and performance. We also manufacture our safes, which means we can maintain complete control over product integrity and guarantee spare parts for life. “Safemark is the only supplier that offers up to a five year product warranty, in person or online training and a US$10,000 warranty against theft by forced entry. For these reasons, Safemark is approved and specified by virtually every global chain.”

“The in-room safe is a crucial part of guest room facilities, a must-have even for simple hostels,” says Indra Budiman, general manager Hansar Hotels & Resorts. “It’s easy for clients to keep their valuables safe. And it also protects the hotel from any liabilities, this is why most big hotels place a notification in guest rooms to encourage clients to use the in-room safe after check-in.” It’s a mistake to base safe choice on price, says Budiman. “A good in room safe is a long-term investment as the depreciation value of this item can go over 10 years. “The best choice will always be the model that gives more features and protection to the hotel in terms of trouble free operation and easy operation. “The most important feature is data retrieving capability when something might happen with that safe – theft, claim for missing valuables and so on. The capability for a complete log track report that can be printed from its database is vital. “Some cheaper models track only opening or closing on their report log which is useless in the case of a serious investigation.” A variety of models is available covering a range of laptop sizes, and the option of a top opening model or a conventional front-opening one. The hotel can choose according to specific market segment, although these days the trend will be for a safe that is large enough to hold at least a 15” laptop. It’s important to be able to check whether the safe is open or closed, especially when guests are checking-out, to ensure that valuables, tickets and travel documents have all been removed. Safemark’s customer portfolio largely consists of international hotel chains, which are not inclined to look for the cheapest option, says Toh. “They have high security standards requiring detailed audit capabilities which record all safe openings and closings. The full name of authorised users performing emergency openings must also be recorded.” Budiman cautions: “As with so many things, it is best to get it right at the outset, buying the most appropriate model rather than cutting corners and later regretting is such a false economy.”