In a Hotel Data Breach, Immediate Response is the New Normal

By Kurt Meister Senior Vice President , Distinguished Programs | April 01, 2018

If you haven't heard about the latest data breach to hit a major hotel chain, just do a quick internet search. In 2017, the number of U.S. data breaches hit an all-time high of 1,579, up 45 percent from 2016, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.   And hotels are a prime target. Verizon's 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report ranks accommodations (hotels and restaurants) as the top industry for point-of-sale (POS) intrusions.

Each data breach creates its own unique set of headaches. One is financial cost. From 2014-17, the average costs of POS-related investigations averaged $735,000 and grew larger (as high as $17 million) based on the size of the organization, according to NetDiligence.  

Reputation damage is equally concerning. Consumers expect hotels – and all businesses – to protect their data no matter what. And when a data breach occurs, they expect immediate action, often faster than the six-to-eight weeks allowed under most U.S. laws.

For many hotels, the question is no longer if a data breach will occur, but when. That's why hotel owners, operators and franchises must be protected and prepared.

Evaluate Your Risks

Because the U.S. hospitality industry attracts millions of guests each night – and because those customers pay for almost everything with a credit card – cybercriminals see hotels as a potential windfall.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.