Guest Privacy - It's Your Business

Traditional Obligation of Hotels to Provide a Secure Environment

By Robert E. Braun Partner, Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, LLP | December 23, 2018

On a basic level, the hospitality business is simple – as is often said, it amounts to putting heads in beds. But finding the heads to put in the beds is a complex process and requires hotel companies to find out a great deal of information about their guests. Gathering and processing that information provides not only opportunities, but creates obligations, one of the most basic of which is ensuring the security of guests' personal information.

That obligation has become increasingly complex due both to the vulnerability of hotel companies to breach, and the enactment of laws and regulations, worldwide, that impose additional burdens on hotels – the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, California's Consumer Privacy Act, as well as industry developments have further heightened the concerns with guest privacy and security

This focus must be seen in the context of two key issues: first, that hotels collect large amounts of data from their guests, both directly and through third parties; and second, that the hospitality industry has a checkered track record in protecting personal information. Both these demand that the hospitality industry take a renewed focus on data security

Data Collection

Hotels and hotel companies collect tremendous amounts of information, directly and through others, including vendors, credit card companies, websites, use of wifi and other systems. The fact that hotels are increasing reliant on technology – and responsive to guest demands for increased connectivity – increases both the amount of information and the risk involved in collecting and processing information.

The increasing incorporation of technology into hotel operations can lead to more breaches. Hotels are seemingly in a race to become more innovative – consider the trend to allow guests to bypass the need to go to the front desk by using their mobile devices to select a room, check-in, receive texts when their room is ready, and even unlock the door to their room. Guests are encouraged to use mobile devices to customize their stay by requesting items, ordering room service, planning activities, or purchasing upgrades. Not only does this trend increase the likelihood of a breach by adding new access points to the system; these programs collect even more data, making a hotel breach more valuable.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.