American consumers are expressing an increasingly high level of concern that their personal data will be adequately protected upon checking into hotels with many guests actually placing that ahead of their own personal security.
At the recent Hotel Experience, Sebastian Dallaire, vp, public affairs, Ipsos, hosted a session entitled “Lessons From The Consumer’s Viewpoint: Why Keeping Guest Data Safe Is Paramount.” He referenced a recent online survey of 1,500 U.S. adults who stayed in hotels within the past year and underscored the conclusion. “Americans believe that their personal data is vulnerable when they book a hotel,” he said.
Dallaire added that the issue is actually quite simple from the consumer perspective. “What’s very important for people in the hotel industry to understand is that no matter what happens clients still tend to blame you. Their behavior is inconsequential—even if their behavior is not—it doesn’t have any impact on how they assess the situation. You’re responsible in the end,” he commented.
The survey revealed that some 11 percent of customers said they had info stolen and an additional 18 percent said it may have happened, but they’re not quite sure. Dallaire noted that when combining those two groups it’s slightly less than a third of guests, which is a significant number.
In fact, keeping their personal information safe, secure and confidential represented the fourth most important criteria among consumers when going to a hotel with some 78 percent checking it off. In the survey data security came in behind only cleanliness (88 percent); comfort (86 percent); and a good night’s sleep (82 percent). Meanwhile, data security ranked ahead of responsive and friendly customer service (75 percent); personal security (72 percent); amenities (44 percent); and restaurants (39 percent).
Dallaire weighed in further on the results. “People are more concerned about their personal data than their personal security. It tells you customers instinctively realize that there are more risks that something will happen to their personal data—and their confidential information—than their person. That really says a lot,” he noted.
According to Dallaire, women have a higher expectation of hotels to keep their personal information secure with 86 percent citing it as opposed to only 69 percent of men. In addition, boomers were more concerned than younger guests as 88 percent of guests 55 and over checked it off as opposed to 70 percent of guests ages 18-34.
Meanwhile, one in three travelers engage in behavior that could potentially leave a paper trail behind, whether its printing the hotel receipt, asking for hotel info, or forgetting something. Dallaire added that many of those guests are business travelers, which he acknowledged are very important.
“If you’re a business traveler and you stay more than 25 a nights a year, you’re more likely to engage in these behaviors that can leave a paper trail behind. What you know as people in hospitality is these are also very important clients for you, for many reasons. They talk to a lot of people, they comes to things very often, so they are worth a lot in terms of your reputation and just sheer business and they are the ones most likely to leave a paper trail along the way,” he noted.
Furthermore, Dallaire noted despite guests’ heightened level of concern they remain largely unsure of what should be done with their personal info when it is left behind or compromised, with the exception of contacting the authorities.
“They think or they know that something happened to their personal data when they stayed, what do they do? They do a lot of bad things for you. They will tend to blame the hotel, wherever they stayed. The first behavior is to tell others about their experience,” he said.
For example, when learning their information was stolen, 43 percent of respondents said they told others about experience, while 42 percent contacted the bank to sort out the financial implications. In addition, 39 percent avoided staying at the hotel in future and 34 percent avoid staying at entire chain in the future.
But when it comes to policies, hoteliers still have a ways to go, according to Dallaire. He noted the company tracked c-suite and small business owners regarding their policies to keep data safe. He noted that 94 percent of C-suite owners confirmed that their company has a policy of disposing of paper documents. Meanwhile, with small businesses, such as boutique hotels, for example, that number drops to 57 percent. “There is still a lot of room for improvement,” he said.
Furthermore, when it comes to storing and disposing of confidential data on electronic devices the number is 70 percent for C-suite owners and only 39 percent for small businesses.
Dallaire offered some insight on why the issue of data security is so important to the industry. “In no other business lines do you have a more intimate relationship with your clients than in the hospitality business. When you go to a hotel—you stay in that room, you shower, you sleep there—everything you do is extremely personal and the sense of safety and security is paramount,” he insisted.