Rise in hotel window, balcony falls merits attention
Rise in hotel window, balcony falls merits attention
26 AUGUST 2019 7:22 AM

Two incidents this week resulting in serious injuries underline the need for hoteliers to look at window and balcony safety.

Last week, I saw two newspaper reports about serious incidents resulting from falls from hotels.

One was out of a window, the other off a balcony.

A search for such incidents this summer unveiled a number of injuries, all serious and two fatal.

  • 20 August—a two-year-old girl fell from a third-floor window in Blackpool, United Kingdom;
  • 19 August—two holidaymakers fell from a 12-foot-high balcony near the French city of Cannes;
  • 15 August—a 45-year-old man fell from a fifth- or sixth-floor balcony in the Maltese town of Marfa;
  • 4 August—a 30-year-old man fell from a fourth-floor balcony on the island of Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands;
  • 28 July—a 30-year-old woman fell 12 feet out of a window in Ibiza in Spain’s Balearic Islands;
  • 21 July—a 26-year-old man died after falling from a third-floor balcony on the Portuguese island of Madeira;
  • 7 July—a woman in her 20s fell from a third-floor balcony in Adelaide, Australia;
  • 9 July—a 28-year-old woman died after falling from a seventh-floor balcony in Bellevue, Washington.

Some newspapers appear to revel in the details, of evenings spent drinking alcohol, of tragedies on once-in-a-lifetime, dream holidays, or at weddings, and of other sensationalist tabloid-worthy behavior.

If the stories behind any number of these tragedies were to be closely examined, some evidence of wrongdoing, foolish behavior or lack of judgement might be a common thread. Who knows?

What is palpable is the life-changing effects to people who presumably checked in to any hotel to enjoy time away from their everyday lives or to conduct business.

I on occasion do bemoan the fact that my hotel window cannot let the outside in. But two of the above incidents stemmed from people leaning against windows, presumably windows fitted with latches that might or might not in those cases have been latched.

Going somewhere sunny and warm is made more enjoyable by opening a window to the breezes and sounds of a different environment, or sitting on a balcony to further take it all in.

Many hotels make their windows secured but large so as to let light flood in and offer a better view, but there is plenty of older hotel stock, perhaps smaller in size, that do not have such things.

In many jurisdictions, hotel windows open no more than a few inches, so there is not space for someone to fall through the gap.

Having a balcony in a resort room might be a differentiator between someone booking that room, or not. A search online reveals many sites listing the Top 10 hotels with balconies in destinations, so demand still exists.

The law changes from city to city, country to country, no doubt, and perhaps older hotels or hotels not rising beyond a specific height might be grandfathered or exempted.

Changing windows is expensive, but not, lawyers I am sure would argue, as expensive as potential lawsuits or reputational damage.

Hoteliers cannot babysit guests, but I would envisage that it is worth researching to see if at any hotel safety can be improved at the same time as insurance premiums reduced.

Added to all this is one of those ridiculous copycat trends doing the rounds.

Apparently, it is quite the thing for people—I imagine all young, but I do not know this for a fact—to jump from balconies into pools, presumably at resorts and perhaps with social media in mind.

The trend started a few years ago but does not seem to have abated.

The International Travel & Health Insurance Journal wrote on 12 July that U.K. tour operators have requested rooms with balconies with low guard rails should not be given out to stop this trend, which often results in compensation claims when what might be a silly prank turns into a tragic accident of which the hotel is the negligent partner.

The full article is here, and it makes for interesting reading.

Hoteliers can only do so much, but it makes sense to do as much as is reasonably possible, and to continually educate people, even if some lessons should be obvious.

Email Terence Baker at tbaker@hotelnewsnow.com or find him on Twitter.

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