Categorized | Hotels

Hotels make guest data security a top priority…

Posted on 14 October 2011

As hotels collect more personal information about guests and the Epsilon and Sony data breaches earlier this year shook people’s confidence in corporate data protection, hotel guests are increasingly asking hotels how well they’re securing their personal information, Mark McBeth, Starwood Hotels’ VP of information technology, said during a recent conference.


It was one of the remarks that McBeth made during a recent hotel industry IT panel covered by industry tracker


IT execs from Starwood, Hilton and owner/operator White Lodging said they’re responding by making the security of guest’s personal data their No. 1 priority.


The stakes involved in protecting “personally identifiable information” (data that can be used to uniquely identify, contact or locate a single person) are far higher with this personal information than with credit-card information, McBeth said.


“PII is considered high-risk because if there were to be a breach, you’re exposing the guest’s identity,” he said. “It paints some pretty scary pictures.”


A “PII” breach could potentially lead to child abduction or a murder if information falls into the wrong hands, he said.


Hotels increasingly seek your personal info


Why do hotels want so much personal information these days?


You’ll likely find the answer in your recent email inbox. The big chains with the most sophisticated customer database systems are starting to send email offers to customers before and after their stays.


“If you’re a golfer, you’re going to get an email about golf,” McBeth said. “If you travel with your wife and she likes the spa, you’re going to get emails about the spa experience.”


The job of increasing data security is complicated by the fact that, behind the scenes, hotel owners, managers and the big brands often debate who has responsibility for various tasks and audits, the story says.


And further complicated by the fact that it’s constantly evolving. “What hoteliers learned and understood last year is different today,” the story says.


Regardless, ensuring the security of this data is so important that it’s consuming hotel IT departments’ attention right now, said Josh Weiss, Hilton Worldwide’s VP of brand and guest technology.


“It’s sad we live in a world where that is No. 1 because it’s really just a huge distraction from the things we want to do and what the guests want us to do,” said Josh Weiss, Hilton Worldwide’s VP of brand and guest technology.

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