Data privacy, a concern for hoteliers too

An esteemed panel of leaders at the IHA-2022 put forth their observations on the topic of data privacy

The hospitality sector has been one of the biggest allies of privacy, but customer data is now being utilised by the industry to offer hyper-personalised services. An esteemed panel of leaders at the BW HOTELIER Indian Hospitality Summit and Awards 2022 (IHA-2022) put forth their observations on the topic of data privacy in the sector.

Weighing in on the topic, Hemant Khattar, Director IT, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group, said, “When we collect data, the customer is not aware that we are doing so but we should be responsible enough to take consent and inform them accordingly.” Even though the guests coming to hotels are a lot smarter today, there are various ways in which customer data is acquired to provide personalised services such as mood lighting, access to TV and the right TV channels in accordance with the customer’s liking and much more. But Khattar emphasised that consent needs to be the mainstay in the discussion of data utilisation in the hospitality sector.

Highlighting the importance of data security in small hotel chains, Chander Baljee, Chairman and Managing Director, Royal Orchid & Regenta Hotels, said, “We hoteliers are so naïve. There are some consulting organisations that ask us for regular data, and we just pass it on to them.” He said that in Indian context, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are seldom observed between hotels and consulting companies that provide tech support. Baljee was of the opinion that consulting organisations are misusing the data as there are no systems to verify this practice. Further, he said that leveraging Artificial intelligence (AI) while collecting data is something the hospitality sector needs to be a little wary of.

Adding to the discussion of data privacy from a tech provider’s perspective, Kamesh Shukla, Executive VP Commercial - APAC & MEA, RateGain, said, “As technology providers, we are GDPR compliant together with all other global certifications and stringent quality checks internally to ensure data security and accuracy both, and what we share is public data customised to our customers' requirements. Our customers and partners use our data to personalise their value proposition and offerings that aim to create personalised experiences for their guests.” He added that tech providers to the hospitality sector like RateGain ensure that they are in compliance with all the data norms and have all the due certifications.

Speaking on cloud-based technologies utilised by hotels, Vivek Gangishetty, VP Sales & Marketing South Asia, RMS Cloud, said, “If you are moving to more cloud-based technologies that are not within your premises, you need to be a little more careful.” He said that data security was the reason Property Management Systems (PMS) companies take data very seriously today. And for this, they have stringent policies of multiple security authorisation before allowing anybody to access data. But on the flip side, he also confessed that technology companies are trying to circumvent but at the same time working on ensuring zero misuse.

Offering a different take on data protection, Suhail Kannampilly, CEO, Concept Hospitality, said that he believes it should about transparency ie the customer should be able to access and see what kind of data hoteliers/ tech providers have on them. “At the end of the day, a customer should be able to also choose whether or not you’re able to utilise their data or not utilise this data for any other purpose, be it sharing the data or anything else,” he concluded.


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