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Covid-19 will be an obstacle to a potential ‘Biden Boom’ in US tourism

Guests provide a wealth of sensitive guest to hotels making them an enticing target for cybercriminals. Recent high-profile data breaches have showcased just how ever the biggest names in the industry are not immune to hacking, but what are hoteliers doing to ensure that guest information is as secure as possible? And what further action can be taken? Alex Love finds out.

tels are under attack from increasingly sophisticated hackers, intent on stealing sensitive data, such as guests’ credit card information and identification documents.

In the last decade, there have been around 30 data breaches for high-profile chains including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and even Trump Hotel Collection.Consequently, hundreds ofmillions of customers have had personal detailsstolen and billing information compromised.

There is a belief among cybersecurity professionals that hotels are either not doing enough to combat this growing threat or usinginadequate solutions.

“The challenge with hotel chains in general is that they tend to be looking at running things as low-cost as possible,” says Joseph Carson, cybersecurity expert and chief security scientist at Thycotic.

“At the same time, I don't think that they see the value of the data that they are actually collecting and processing. And that ultimately becomes the major issue.When you don't see the value yourself, but attackers do, then they'll take advantage of your failure to protect it.”

Cyber criminals are continuously seeking opportunities to exploit. Not only can a data breach harm a hotel brand’s reputation, but owners will also be hit with hefty penalties from authorities. The EU’s GDPR law has imposed tighter rules on how companies treat customer data and how long they can hold onto it, with considerable fines imposed on those found in breach of regulations

“Hotels hold millions of pieces of data, which can have a great value on the dark markets. Therefore, when hotels are not properly protected, criminal hackers will continually exploit wherever possible in order to extract whatever they can,” explains Jake Moore, cyber security specialist for ESET.

Trump’s election in 2016 had a questionable negative impact on tourism

In the period after Donald Trump was elected as the President of the US in 2016, visitation to and within the US saw a fall. Figures from GlobalData show that in February and March 2017, after Trump’s inauguration, trips to the US declined compared to a year earlier. Visitation in December 2017 was also down 2% compared to the year previous. Headlines citing a ‘Trump Slump’ concerned the industry as the president initiated tougher visa restrictions and damaged international relations with the US.

However, other factors also contributed to a decline in visitors. A strong US dollar exchange rate, which makes travel to the US more expensive, limited governmental support for organisations marketing in the US and the threat of terror attacks were all at play.

In 2020, the main impact on tourism has been Covid-19, with travel restrictions making international travel impossible for many months in the year. Impact on tourism jobs has been severe. The US travel association recorded that before Covid-19, leisure & hospitality accounted for 11% of the workforce, but 39% of all jobs lost due to the pandemic were in this sector. GlobalData predicts a 48% drop in international arrivals to the US in 2020 compared to 2019, clearly showing the pandemic’s impact.

Hotels must expect to be the target of repeated breach attempts.

The 2020 election divided the nation

With Joe Biden seemingly the close winner of the election in 2020, the proposed change of office has divided the nation. Many states have remained the same as 2016 in their electoral votes however some have changed political allegiances which caused Biden’s victory.

In a Covid-19 Recovery Survey conducted by GlobalData in Week 9 (survey dates 7-11 October 2020), 56% of respondents from the US said they were ‘extremely concerned’ regarding the economic situation of the country they are living in, compared to just 2% who were not concerned. The link between the presidency and the economic situation of a country is clear; a new president could give a lifeline to rejuvenate the economy after the negative impacts of the pandemic.

The lack of international travel prior to the election could see any impact on inbound travel due to the election ruled out in the short term. Limited travelers are permitted to enter the US for tourism purposes, so any impact due to the election will be masked by this. Long-term impacts on tourism should be closely monitored, as trade deals and relations with countries should see travel to the US increase as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The political stance of a state will determine the impact on tourism

As international tourism is off the cards for most of 2020, the focus should be on domestic travel. Domestic travel will be the primary source of travel income for US companies in light of the pandemic. The impact on tourism depends on the political stance of individuals and the state as a whole as this could determine friendly alliances or disagreement between two states.

Key tourism states such as Florida and Nevada created mass attention during the election coverage for different reasons, however, this could encourage or deter visitation in the new normal of travel; state-by-state relations should be maintained regardless of political preference as, in the current travel space, domestic tourists are more important than ever.

The state of Delaware gained mass press coverage due to being Biden’s home state; his victory could result in a big ‘Biden Boom’ for tourism. With limited tourism budgets, financed by taxes on hotel stays, Delaware has finally got recognition in the US and Biden's election win could cause a short term increase in domestic visitation.

For Travel and Tourism industry data, comment and analysis,

visit GlobalData's Tourism Intelligence Centre.

Main image: US President elect Joe Biden. Credit: Stratos Brilakis |