Five Hospitality Industry Tech Threats

June 18, 2019

Technology can be a boon for the hospitality industry. Guests enjoy modern amenities. Managers appreciate instant access to real-time data. Everyone loves the ease of online booking. Unfortunately, every great advancement brings new risks. Below are five examples of tech threats in the hospitality industry.

Data Breaches

Having information stored in a computer system makes things easy for hotel workers. Unfortunately, it also makes things easy for hackers who want to get their hands on that information. Data breaches have become a fact of everyday life.

Hotels are attractive targets. Hackers attacked Marriott and gained access to the personal information of more than 300 guests. According to Vox, it may be the biggest data breach in history. It’s also exposed the hotel chain to multiple class-action lawsuits. 

Hacks on Connected Services

The Internet of Things is expected to provide $19 trillion in cost-savings and profits for the hospitality sector, according to Entrepreneur. Guests can use connected devices to personalize their stay, and the hotel can use it to improve monitoring and access.

But again, there’s a downside. As amenities become high tech, they also become vulnerable to cyberattacks. Just look at locks. A remote hacker can’t do anything with an old-fashioned key, but as Forbes reports, hackers using ransomware were able to lock guests out of their rooms in a hotel in Austria in 2017.  

Lax security can make the connected devices a cyber risk. There has been discussion about how connected devices in homes can leave people vulnerable to spying, theft and other threats. PhocusWire warns that hotels using connected devices face the same risks.

New Competition

First, the rise of the sharing economy created new competition. Just as the taxi industry had to deal with Uber, the hospitality industry had to deal with Airbnb.

Now, there’s another source of competition. According to Travel Weekly, tech giants are pushing their way into the hospitality industry. In the article, Arne Sorenson, Marriott International CEO, said "I think we are in an absolute war for who owns the customer, and it's a long-term war.”

Privacy/Security Balance

Not all attacks that occur at hotels are cyber in nature. In 2017, 58 people died in a mass shooting while attending a music concert in Las Vegas. The attacker was positioned in a hotel room near the concert.

Many aspects of hotels – including the ever-changing inhabitants, the large groups of people, and the seclusion offered inside rooms – make them vulnerable to violent attacks. Hotels need to do everything in their power to keep guests safe. At the same time, they want to protect the privacy of their guests. Finding the appropriate balance is not easy.

Just look at facial recognition technology. It can be used to identify criminals, thus improving safety, but many see it as an invasion of privacy and worry about the large databases of photos that are needed. According to Futurism, Microsoft has deleted its facial recognition data.   

Online Reviews

You can’t please all the people all the time. But what happens when the people you can’t please go online to tell everyone about it? Thanks to sites like Yelp, reviews are more visible than ever. According to SiteMinder, 96 percent of travelers consider reviews important when researching a hotel.

A bad review can keep people from choosing your hotel – even if the review is unfair or even made up. A study from the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management found that many negative reviews are written by people looking for compensation. Around a third of reviews could be fake.

In the ever-evolving world of hospitality, smart insurance and risk management strategies are non-negotiables. Find out what Heffernan’s Hospitality Practice can do for you.