21 February, 2022 Security
On 6 October 2021, Muir Analytics gave a hotel threat intelligence brief at Stephen Barth’s excellent Hospitality Law Conference series. Muir’s briefing included a strategic hotel threat assessment (indications and warnings, or I&W) for the remainder of 2021 and the whole of 2022. This report is a written version of that briefing.
Note: A strategic I&W assessment is a broad threat warning, not a notice that a specific act of violence will happen at a particular place and time. This briefing assesses big-picture violent hotel risk trends for 2022’s global hotel market with a short focus on the US and Mexico. It does not hypothesize international black swan-type events, but it does mention them for the US. It also does not cover future war scenarios, such as a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine (as of this publication) or other possible war events such as Taiwan or South Korea. War insurance should be considered for these and other, like situations. Finally, all threat assessments listed here are Covid-pending, meaning if Covid morphs again into a new variant and spreads, the ability of belligerents (criminals, terrorists, radical political activists, etc.) to carry out violence will be curtailed but not halted.
The biggest international terrorist threat to hotels for 2022 is from Islamist jihadist groups – organizations and individuals following the ideology of the Taliban, al Qaeda (AQ,) ISIS, and like groups. There are four reasons.
First, Muir’s statistics show that Islamist jihadists are responsible for about 80% of global terror attacks against hotels. They attack hotels as a matter of policy.
Second, America’s decisive defeat in Afghanistan by the Taliban in August 2021 is expected to spur the fourth post-Cold War global Islamist jihadist rally. Previous rallies have inspired jihadists to carry out more violence because they perceive their religious warfare as successful and ordained by God. And this violence has always included hotel attacks.
The last three global Islamist jihadist rallies were:
Third, 20 years after the attacks on 11 September, there are more Islamist jihadist groups globally than ever before. AQ, for example, has scores of regional commands around the world, three of which have strengthened in recent years:
ISIS has done likewise with six regional commands:
All these AQ and ISIS commands have links to multitudes of sub-regional and country-specific terrorist groups all over the world, such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram (formerly with AQ, now with ISIS,) ISIS-Mozambique, Indonesia’s Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD, ISIS,) Abu Sayyaf (formerly with AQ, now with ISIS,) Somalia’s al Shabaab (AQ,) and Southeast Asia’s Jemaah Islamiyah (AQ.) All but JAD have attacked hotels, and JAD has links to infamous hotel attackers.
Fourth, as AQ and ISIS try to outcompete each other for brand share of the global Islamist jihadist movement, they will clash. This means fighting each other and trying to outdo each other regarding spectacular terrorist attacks. A classic example is the ISIS-AQ rivalry in North, Central, and West Africa, resulting in multiple headline-grabbing attacks, including against hotels. Muir detailed one of these ISIS-AQ schisms here: 4 November 2016, Terror group specializing in hotel attacks joins ISIS.
Geographically, Islamist jihadists have made incredible progress in Africa, one of their crucial hotel target zones. Muir Analytics has covered African hotel attacks here (the dusitD2 hotel and business compound, Nairobi, Kenya,) here (Hotel Maka Al-Mukarama, Mogadishu, Somalia,) and here (&Beyond Vamizi, Vamizi island, Mozambique.) The latter was an amphibious attack by ISIS-Mozambique on an exclusive island resort. It was empty because of Covid, and there were no casualties, but the attackers torched the property, causing extensive damage.
As an aside, in the Vamizi briefing, Muir warned that ISIS-Mozambique was likely to attack other hotels, and it did. During the siege of Palma town, they surrounded and continually fired at over 200 foreigners holed up at the Amarula Palma Hotel in March 2021. The attack ended in tragedy as guests, abandoned by the international community, braved the violence and broke out of the hotel compound, driving through multiple ambushes attempting to find safety.
Middle East and the Levant
In the Middle East and the Levant, the primary home base of Islamist jihadism, the risk of hotel attacks remains high in 2022. While ISIS, AQ, and like-minded groups have recently suffered defeat at the hands of the US, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and others – and regional terrorism has decreased as a result – they are reconstituting through countries like Turkey. To maintain relevancy, their cells and individual operatives will aim to conduct attacks that reap sensational headlines. Hotels are one target set that will help achieve this end. The 2017 “frogman” stabbing attack on foreigners at Egypt’s Zahabia Hotel & Beach Resort is one example. A similar stabbing attack in 2016 on the Bella Vista Hotel and Resort in Hurghada, Egypt, is another. Muir Analytics covered that attack here.
The Saudi Arabia-Houthi war in Yemen might also produce hotel violence in 2022. While it is difficult for Houthis to penetrate Saudi, they have fired missiles and launched drones against Saudi’s airports, oil and gas sector, and other civilian targets. Given these target sets, hotels should be considered at risk as well.
In Southeast Asia, jihadists remain highly active. ISIS threatened this region at least three times in 2021: 30 August, 8 September, and 10 September. These warnings satisfied the Islamist jihadist legal dictum requiring one to alert an enemy before attacking them. Now that the warning has been issued, such attacks could happen at any time. Hotels should be considered on the target list. They have been in the past. They will be in the future.
Regional governments have recognized the threat. For example, Indonesia and Malaysia have warned about potential Islamist jihadist attacks in the past seven months. Thailand sees it, too. The National Revolutionary Front (BRN) and its affiliates – which are local ethno-nationalist jihadists, not international jihadists – have begun to ramp up operations again. The BRN specializes in hotel attacks. Read about their punishing 2016 bombing of the Southern View Hotel here and here.
In South Asia, Islamist jihadists have attacked hotels for years. In April 2021, the Pakistani Taliban detonated a car bomb at the Serena Hotel, apparently targeting a Chinese diplomat and the Pakistani police. In Sri Lanka, ISIS attacked four hotels and three churches on Easter 2019 with devastating effects. Watch Muir Analytics’ briefing on the Sri Lanka attacks here. In India, security professionals in August 2021 expressed concerns about ISIS-K and its alleged establishment of “Wilayah of Hind” or ISIS’ India Province. And throughout the region, there is always the lingering threat of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the deadly Pakistan-based jihadis that carried out the bloody raid on Mumbai in 2008, which included attacks on the Taj Mahal, the Oberoi, and Trident hotels. Even since then, India has suffered scores of smaller jihadist hotel attacks. Farther south in the Maldives, jihadists have staged several attacks on civilian targets, including hotels. Muir’s 2020 hotel threat brief on the Maldives should be considered valid for 2022. Overall, Muir sees no reason for South Asia’s hotel violence trends to abate this year.
Europe and the UK
In Europe and the UK, AQ and ISIS networks continue to operate. In 2020-2021, police in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, and France – just to name six – arrested a stream of Islamist jihadist plotters. Accordingly, hotels in Europe will remain under jihadist threat in 2022.
France, in particular, has been subject to at least 40 Islamist jihadist attacks since 2012. Some were spectacular, such as the November 2015 ISIS raid on Paris (Muir covered it here,) but most have been small-scale attacks done by individual attackers. Muir warned of increased Islamist jihadist terror in France and against its interests internationally here. This threat warning carries over into 2022, and it includes hotels.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Latin America and the Caribbean have had Islamist jihadist networks for decades, and they are expanding. These groups have traditionally been stronger in countries like, but not exclusive to, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Trinidad. And in Jamaica, jihadist Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal was arrested and extradited to the US in 2020 for aiding and abetting ISIS by running a recruiting network. About 200 people from the Caribbean have fought for ISIS in the Middle East. Factors like these indicate that if jihadists wanted to attack a target in Latin America or the Caribbean, they could. And with the fourth Islamist jihadist global rally, they might be inspired to in 2022.
Other terrorist threats to hotels
Other terrorist threats to hotels in 2022 include, but are not limited to, Irish Republicanism (from the New IRA, for example,) far-leftist/communism (from FARC in Colombia or the Naxalite-Maoists in India, for example,) far-right fascism (from neo-Nazis/skinheads in Finland, for example,) and other niche-cause driven terrorists.
Iran and its proxies such as Hezbollah will pose an increased terror threat in 2022, too. On 3 January this year, Iran threatened to attack the US and/or its interests in revenge for America’s 3 January 2020 assassination of Qasem Soleimani, commander of Tehran’s paramilitary Quds Force. Hotels cannot be excluded from Iran’s revenge operations.
Globally, political violence – namely violent protests, strikes, riots, and civil commotion (termed “SRCC” in the insurance sector) – has intensified in the past several years, and a lot of it has impacted hotels. Since 2016, there have been over 100 significant protests worldwide that have resulted in billions in property damage, economic strangulation, and scores of casualties. Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, the US, Mexico, France, and South Africa provide but a few examples. Since 2021, there have been at least 20 notable episodes of political violence worldwide. Some can be foreseen, such as election year protests, highly anticipated legislature, and controversial court cases. However, some of it is nearly spur-of-the-moment, such as riots resulting from police shootings, the murder of activists, sudden state decrees, and state vs. state border conflicts.
Much of this political violence has directly targeted hotels, such as the Oromo riots in Ethiopia in June-July 2020. In this case, an Oromo rights activist was assassinated, and Oromos rioted, looting, vandalizing, and burning scores of non-Oromo businesses. The latter included two Haile Resort hotels: the 3-star Shashemene Hotel, which was burned to the ground, and the 3-star Haile Resort-Ziway, which vandals gutted. The damages put 400 employees out of work and caused between $8-11 million in damages.
No country is immune to this kind of hotel violence. Israel has recently experienced it – Muir covered it here– as has the US. Muir covered US hotel political violence here (Charleston, SC) and here (Charlotte, NC.)
Threats to US hotels in 2022 will include the aforementioned political violence and terrorist issues – including the Iranian threat – plus violent crime. And, in the US, there is always the possibility of a black swan event such as the 25 December 2020 Nashville, Tennessee, vehicle bombing by one mentally disturbed Anthony Quinn Warner. While this bombing targeted AT&T, it severely damaged a nearby building that housed the boutique Studio 154 hotel, which has remained closed ever since.
US hotel violent crime
Violent crime in the US accounts for 30-50 significant acts of hotel violence every month. Much of this is drug-based crime done by career criminals, such as dealing out of hotels of all rankings. It’s not just the 1–2-star properties. Muir Analytics estimates this trend might increase in 2022 for three reasons.
First, political attacks on the police have reduced policing, which has triggered a surge of looting, organized theft, assaults, methodical attacks on police, and general lawlessness in some areas of the US.
Second, eased back prosecution of violent criminals in cities such as, but not restricted to, Los Angeles and New York, has emboldened lawbreakers who believe they won’t get indicted for various offenses.
Third, a lack of US southern border control has allowed a flood of fentanyl and other illicit narcotics into the US, meaning more drug deals, meaning more drug dealing out of hotels.
Combined, the above datapoints indicate increased violent crime, and this has, and will continue to, impact US. hotels.
US hotel terrorsim
The increased threat of Islamist jihadist terrorism against the US will be a hotel threat factor in 2022 for the same reasons it’s a threat internationally. Individuals – so-called “lone wolves,” but more correctly labeled as “operatives” or “agents of” – might answer the call by AQ, ISIS, and other like groups. Such attacks might also come from operatives infiltrating the US from overseas, especially through the porous southern border. Regarding the latter, in December 2021, authorities arrested a suspected terrorist from Saudi Arabia linked to “Yemeni subjects of interest” crossing the Mexico-Arizona border wearing an old but official medical first responder uniform from New York state’s Oneida County.
US hotel political violence
Muir estimates domestic political violence – including SRCC, lesser acts of violence, and domestic terrorism – at US hotels will continue in 2022, but at a lower tempo from 2016-21. This is because the far left has committed most hotel political violence in the US in recent years, primarily SRCC, vandalism, and assault and battery. Most of this came from President Trump-focused rage, ANTIFA riots, BLM protests-turned violent, and single cause-driven activists. Now that left-leaning politicians control the White House and much of the rest of the government, the far left has a reduced need to commit some of this violence.
The midterm elections in 2022 and their aftermath might see some leftist political violence, however, and hotels should be prepared for it.
Additionally, legislative bills, court cases, and other government actions the far left perceives as gravely critical are likely to be met with violence and/or harassment, such as the physical menacing and bullying of journalists, opposition pundits, speakers, and politicians like Andy Ngo, Jonathan T. Gilliam, and Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Situations like these have, and will continue to, spill over onto the hospitality sector.
A limited list of US hotels impacted by leftist political violence in recent years includes, but is not limited to:
Far-right political violence at US hotels has not been a major issue in recent years, but Muir does not rule out the possibility of this happening in 2022, especially if these groups and individuals become increasingly agitated. For example, during the 6 January 2021 riots on Capitol Hill, the Oath Keepers – according to their own words – used an Arlington, VA hotel as a staging area for an armed attack on the Capitol building if their cohorts infiltrating the Capitol building called them for backup. While staging these weapons was not an act of violence, it was in preparation for one, and if confronted by law enforcement, scenarios like these might turn violent.
Additionally, there is the possibility that more fervent far-right groups might commit violence at US hotels if the targets of their disdain – key politicians, news personalities, political pundits, or leftist groups – were giving a talk or holding a meeting at a hotel.
Overall, America’s body politic continues to be angry, and as long as US politicians, news personalities, and activists continue to use dehumanizing and punitive speech against their rivals, activists will remain on standby to mobilize and carry out political violence with little or no warning. This violence has, and will continue to, spill over onto hotels.
Muir Analytics warned in October 2021 that Mexico’s ongoing cartel and gang violence would increasingly impact its tourism and hospitality sectors for the rest of 2021 and 2022. And it did. There are three reasons for this violence.
First, the Mexican government’s successful offensives against large cartels caused these organizations to fracture and fight each other. These include, but are not limited to, the Sinaloa, Gulf, and Jalisco New Generation Cartels, plus Los Zetas.
Second, there are scores of small gangs that have popped up to take advantage of the vacuum left by this fracturing, which has resulted in the deaths and injuries of multiple foreigners in places like Tulum. In Tulum alone, there are 10 gangs vying for power, including the ultra-violent Los Pelones.
Third, many of the above-mentioned groups are fighting to control of the tourist retail drug market on tourist beaches such as the Riviera Maya. This violence has impacted several hotels, and the violence-doers do not care, even though their violence directly impacts their clientele. Antonio Chaves, the leader of Maya Riviera Hotel Association, told the Associated Press: “They are criminal groups that don’t care about the place, the time, the surroundings, and that affects the tourism zone.”
There have been multiple tourist and hotel shootings along the Riviera Maya in recent months, including at the following top-rated hotels:
Read more about Mexico’s cartel-hotel violence and the Hyatt Ziva Riviera attack here.
Lastly, at least one Mexican cartel recently secured Middle Eastern terrorist expertise to help it create a drone bomber, which it used against a rival cartel.
Collectively, the above datapoints indicate an increasingly deteriorating security environment in Mexico, which portends badly for hotels and resorts throughout the country.
The above-mentioned hotel violence risks for 2022 are based on real-world threat issues. All of them have caused varying degrees of hotel violence and corresponding damages and casualties in the past, and they will again in 2022. Governments and hotels should plan accordingly. If they do, then the risks mentioned here can be reduced.
Also, while increased hotel security and specialized insurance are vital solutions, they are meaningless without hotel threat intelligence – in other words, statistics, graphs, maps, case studies, and analyses of hotel threat trends. Hotel threat intelligence allows governments, hotels, and underwriters to understand the hotel threat picture, which means a high degree of threat awareness and tailored hotel violence solutions.
Muir Analytics runs the world’s largest, most sophisticated hotel violence database – the SecureHotel Threat Portal – with over 1,900 hotel attacks (and growing.) We have successfully predicted hotel violence in Somalia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, the US, Mexico, Thailand, Tunisia, and other locales. And in summer 2021, Muir Analytics provided critical litigation support to plaintiffs/complainants in the TUI negligence lawsuit regarding the ISIS attack on the RIU Imperial Marhaba hotel in Tunisia, which helped induce a settlement that compensated the victims.
Muir Analytics can provide the hospitality sector with intelligence that facilitates full-spectrum risk reduction, which helps hotels protect guests, staff, buildings, brands, and revenues. Contact us for a consultation: 1-833-DATA-444.
“US designates 3 men in Brazil as affiliated with al-Qaida,” Associated Press, 22 December 2021.
“Saudi Arabian ‘potential terrorist’ nabbed at US-Mexico border,” Fox News, 20 December 2021.
Katherine Zimmerman, “Al Qaeda & ISIS 20 Years After 9/11,” The Wilson Center, 8 September 2021.
“From Kerala to Kabul to Kashmir— how Islamic State Khorasan poses threat to India,” India Today, 27 August 2021.
“Pakistan hotel bomb: Deadly blast hits luxury venue in Quetta,” BBC, 22 April 2021.
“Mozambique Palma attack: How people tried to flee the assault,” BBC, 4 April 2021.
“Hotels belonging to long-distance legend Gebrselassie destroyed during unrest in Ethiopia,” Inside the Games, August 2020.
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