Can Guests Still Expect Privacy in Hotels After the Mandalay Bay Shooting?

Can Guests Still Expect Privacy in Hotels After the Mandalay Bay Shooting?

Elevator staff and do-not-disturb signs are among hotel security discussion points in the mass-shooting age.

By Karen Gardiner

When you check into a hotel, you expect a certain amount of privacy — and, to an extent, hotels honor that. But, today, there is an increasing sense that something's got to give — and it's largely down to the repercussions of last fall's tragedy at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Just as 9/11 forever changed the air travel experience, October 1, 2017 may come to change the hotel experience. 

Surveillance footage from MGM Resorts (which owns and operates Mandalay Bay), recently posted and analyzed by The New York Times, recorded a typical visitor to the Las Vegas Strip. The footage shows the shooter, Stephen Paddock, entering and leaving the hotel, dining, gambling, and interacting with hotel staff, some of whom unwittingly helped the him move bag after bag of weapons into his suite and adjoining room on the 32nd floor of the resort, which, over one week, were filled with 21 cases full of guns and ammunition. In a statement, MGM said that it released the surveillance video “in the interest of providing greater context.”

“MGM and Mandalay Bay could not reasonably foresee that a longtime guest with no known history of threats or violence and behaving in a manner that appeared outwardly normal, would carry out such an inexplicably evil, violent and deadly act,” MGM spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in the statement. MGM's move seems to be a strategic one, hoping that, by watching the video, the public would see that there was no way any hotel staff could have suspected this typical-looking guest of plotting an atrocity.

Still, the footage revealed some innocent-seeming privacy measures that may now raise potential red flags. Upon arrival, Paddock is seen requesting to stay with his luggage as it is taken to his room, so the bellman took him on the service elevator. The Times reports this as "not unusual," according to hotel management, but that sentiment is not shared by Steve Wynn, who told Fox News late last year,"Nobody in this company's history, no public person has ever walked in the service elevator unless they were accompanied by a security." For whatever reason a guest might want to keep their luggage within their sight at all times, we might now expect such a request to be looked on with suspicion.

Wynn also pointed out the Do Not Disturb sign issue. As we noted late last year, a hotel worker told The New York Times that Paddock kept the sign on his door for three days, so no maids entered the rooms. When the sign is up, the worker said, housekeepers are only allowed to enter a room if they are accompanied by a security guard — and it happens rarely. (Wynn claimed that his hotel staff investigate after just 12 hours). Since then, however, Hilton has revised its policy to stipulate staff should inform active security or duty managers if a Do Not Disturb sign has been in place at a guestroom door for more than than 24 consecutive hours. The move follows four Walt Disney World hotels in Orlando — the Polynesian Village Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the Contemporary Resort, and the adjoining Bay Lake Tower— replacing their Do Not Disturb signs with "Room Occupied" signs. At these hotels housekeepers are allowed to enter a room even if the sign is on the door, but must first knock and identify themselves.

The sign is a long-acknowledged symbol of a guest's wish for privacy and a request for staff to kindly leave them alone. Now it's looking as though security will soon easily trump a guest's preference for privacy. But will guests protest new measures perceived to intrude upon our privacy? Given the way we all adapted to intrusive security procedures implemented post-9/11, probably not.

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