image of person in glasses looking a bit shady reflecting the dark side of data

Nowadays, every click, scroll, and tap is meticulously recorded and analyzed. Property Management Systems have revolutionized the way hotels operate, offering seamless booking experiences and personalized guest services.

NB: This is an article from Shiji

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But as much as this poses opportunities it also leaves a threat: the mishandling of guests’ personal information. It’s time for us, as responsible PMS vendors, to lead the way in confronting the dark side of data and to demonstrate how treating data with the respect and security it deserves should be the industry standard.

From that moment that a guest makes a hotel booking, an invisible hand starts cataloging every move. The guest’s name, address, credit card details, and even their preferences for hypoallergenic pillows or late-night snacks are siphoned into a digital vault. This treasure trove of information, when used ethically, can enhance your guests’ stay. But what happens when it falls into the wrong hands?

The hospitality industry is a juicy target for cybercriminals. High-profile breaches have shown that even luxury hotel chains are not immune. The 2018 Marriott breach, which exposed the personal data of approximately 500 million guests, was a stark wake-up call. It highlighted the severe consequences of insufficient security measures and the catastrophic impact on customer trust. With personal information scattered across various platforms and databases, there must be total commitment from the PMS vendors to ensure data protection.

PMS providers, sitting at the center of this data flow, have a moral and legal obligation to safeguard guest information. Data encryption, regular security audits, and robust access controls should be non-negotiable standards, not afterthoughts. Hotels needs to avoid vendors cutting corners to save costs, deploying outdated software, or neglecting employee training on cybersecurity best practices. This negligence is not just irresponsible; it’s dangerous.

Moreover, the mishandling of guest data isn’t always about malicious intent. Misconfigured databases, lack of data protection, and poor data management practices can lead to accidental leaks. In 2019, an unsecured database of the Pyramid Hotel Group left millions of hotel guests’ records exposed on a public server. The PMS vendor should design their software with security as a fundamental principle (security and privacy by design). This includes ensuring that the system has robust protection for data at rest and in transit, secure authentication mechanisms, and comprehensive access controls.

When guests’ personal information is compromised, their sense of safety is shattered. In an industry built on trust and hospitality, such a breach is a betrayal of the highest order. Guests should feel secure, knowing that their data is treated with the utmost care. Anything less is unacceptable.

But the responsibility doesn’t rest solely on PMS providers. Hotel operators must also do their part. Due diligence should be a part of the vendor selection process, with security audits and compliance checks conducted regularly. Hotels should demand transparency about how their guests’ data is handled and stored. New regulations being introduced in many countries actually require to manage third party risks.

So, what can be done to manage this risk? For starters, PMS providers must adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards data breaches. This means investing in the latest security technologies and working with vendors that adhere to the highest security standards. Regular security training for staff, both at the PMS provider and hotel level, is essential.

The dark side of data in the hospitality industry is a pressing issue that demands pioneers that truly understand the security needs of hotels. PMS providers have a duty to protect guests’ information with the highest standards of security and ethics. Hotel operators must be diligent in selecting and monitoring their PMS vendors, and guests should be more conscious of their data privacy. Only through a concerted effort can we ensure that the promise of personalized service does not come at the cost of our privacy. It’s time for us, as responsible PMS providers, to lead by example and demonstrate unwavering accountability in the handling of our guests’ most personal information.

Read more articles from Shiji