The American Hotel & Lodging Association said its 5-star Promise program, which aims to distribute employee safety devices to hotel employees nationwide by 2020, saw a 230 percent increase in membership over the past year.

A PROMISE IS a promise, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association is keeping a promise it made a year ago to improve hotel worker safety. Its 5-Star Promise program, which aims to distribute employee safety devices, personal alarms a worker in trouble can use to summon help, to hotel employees nationwide by 2020 has seen a 230 percent increase in members.

The ESDs have been distributed in New York, Washington, Chicago, Seattle and Miami Beach. AHLA also sent out supplemental resources, such as a Device Buyer’s Guide for companies planning to purchase their own ESDs.

“As an industry of people taking care of people, we have always been deeply committed to safety and security for our employees and guests. We have a responsibility to ensure they feel safe and secure,” said AHLA President and CEO Chip Rogers. “Hotels continuously evaluate and evolve their policies, trainings and technologies to foster a safe environment and empower our employees.”

AHLA convened a task force of industry experts in 2017 to outline what would become the 5-Star Promise. It held a Safety Summit in July in which lodging executives, lawmakers and security experts discussed the best approaches to ensure employee and guest safety before launching the program last September.

Under the program, participating companies determine the best security devices for them based on the property’s layout and physical features. The ESDs essentially feature a button on a fob or pocket-size unit that, when pushed, can summon help with a loud noise or wireless electronic notification. Some also feature emergency GPS tracking. AHLA also provides training materials and expertise for members.

The announcement of the 5-Star Promise came weeks after proposed legislation in California that would have required hotels there to provide safety devices to employees failed to pass out of committee. The California Hotel & Lodging Association had opposed the measure, saying it could have forced hotels to invest twice in the systems. CH&LA Secretary and Treasurer Bijal Patel said the 5-Star Promise program offers a better alternative.

“The fight was never really about the actual panic button,” he said.

Rather, CH&LA was concerned about carve-outs in California Assembly Bill 1761 that would have mandated hotels to also comply with local ordinances that might require some other equipment or system.

“You’re asking our members to make a double investment,” he said. “If a jurisdiction a year from now says they wanted to mandate a specific device, then our members would have to go back and invest in another device.”

Along with increasing from 17 to 56 participating companies, the 5-Star program saw the following progress over its inaugural year:

  • About 20,000 hotel properties have joined the promise, providing ESDs and training to 1.2 million employees.
  • More than 5,000 properties have already deployed the devices this year, with the remaining on track to do so by 2020.
  • All 17 brands originally committed to the 5-Star Promise in 2018 have already completed the remaining pillars of the pledge.
  • The hotel industry has increased training around sexual assault, harassment and human trafficking prevention.
  • AHLA released a Device Buyer’s Guide along with Hospitality Technology Next Generation.
  • AHLA established a program for member companies to offer discounts with the following ESD providers: AT&T, Enseo, PwC, React Mobile, RF Technologies, ROAR for Good, and TraknProtect.