Protecting Guests, Protecting Reputations: The Risks of Not Securing Guest Transactional Data

By James Filsinger Chief Executive Officer, EZYield | September 25, 2011

In a world where everyone is increasingly engaged with online transactional systems, it is readily apparent that the convenience afforded by live information sharing and online payment services must be balanced and underscored by a solid security framework. In the hotel sector, where card payment technology to book rooms and for actual transactions during guest stays is common, it becomes a much higher priority. Smart hoteliers can combat this risk by adhering to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

PCI compliance is a hot issue especially in the world of reservation processing. As the online travel industry moves away from manual data entry towards automated reservation delivery, many hotels and vendors are finding themselves having to comply with data protection standards that rival those that need to be met by governments and international banks.

The need for security compliance in the hospitality sector was recently highlighted by Trustwave, a Visa Qualified Forensic Investigator (QFI), who stated, “research investigated more than 210 card compromise incident investigations, of which 38% occurred in the hospitality sector.”(1) This figure is alarming, and highlights the particular vulnerabilities the hotel sector faces around guest data security and how attractive the sector is to hackers.

Protecting Vulnerabilities

For too long, the hotel sector has been viewed as a soft target by hackers seeking to steal guest data. While some hoteliers are taking guest data security seriously, there are still too many operators using inadequate technology and processes to fully protect data. Indeed, even in sectors where it is thought that a PCI DSS would be level one, this isn’t always the case, and we’ve seen fairly simple security flaws highlighted earlier this year with attacks on Citigroup, Sony and security company, Lockheed Martin.(2)

Any breach of data security is serious, and can have severe consequences in terms of loss of revenue, but also for the business’s reputation and customer loyalty. It goes without saying that no guest wants to risk staying at a hotel if they are not confident that their personal information is safe. As a result, it is more important than ever to reassure customers that there are solid security measures in place to protect their information through online booking tools and when using credit cards within the actual hotel.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.