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Pent-up demand that existed after the first UK lockdown may not be the same for the second

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.

The sudden nature of the first lockdown left once-frequent travellers itching to go on holiday again

In March 2020, strict travel restrictions were implemented to and from the UK over just a few days, shattering travel plans and causing national chaos. The last minute nature of these restrictions caused large-scale disruption for travellers and companies, where mass refunds had to be issued for all kinds of travel cancellations.

Airlines and travel agencies struggled to keep up with immense cash burn, with revenue dramatically reduced by a lack of holiday bookings and refunds eating into remaining cash reserves. Many travellers were offered vouchers for booking value rather than cash refunds to maintain cash flow.

Initially, this worked well for travel companies as many travellers were under the impression that by summer 2020, restrictions would be lifted and travel could resume. With millions of travel vouchers to be used and months of lockdown measures, there was significant pent-up demand for summer holidays after a bleak few months following on from March.

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

Incremental travel restrictions that came into place ruined any desire to travel

The return of the summer holiday was short-lived after quarantine measures were put into place on travellers returning from important UK outbound markets. Every week more countries were removed from the ‘quarantine-free’ list, leaving it impossible for travellers to book holidays without the risk of it impacting their life on return.

As a result of this, domestic travel saw an increase in the UK. It was much safer, more convenient and less stressful for travellers to stay within their own country. This severely impacted UK-based airlines, where capacities that had just been increased were forced to reduce again and cancel further flights, offering more refunds and furthering cash flow issues.

The second UK lockdown will eradicate any short-term desire to travel internationally

The tiered lockdown system that was introduced in the UK in October was a sign that the second wave was looming. The lockdown that began on 5 November came as no surprise to English citizens, as Wales and Northern Ireland have already announced lockdowns.

Confidence in international travel was already at a very low point before the lockdown was introduced. Travellers had postponed booking trips for the near future and many have not booked any more holidays until at least 2021. The global pandemic has had more time to impact daily life.

In the GlobalData Covid-19 Recovery Survey in Week 9 (7-11 October), 25% of respondents were ‘extremely concerned’ regarding their personal finance situation, 28% ‘ were quite concerned’. This shows that as restrictions continue, financial budgets are tighter and safety concerns continue to rise.

As the second lockdown was expected and not sudden like the first, pent-up demand for travel after lockdown may not be at similar levels to the first. The general attitude toward traveling abroad is negative; where travellers would rather not have money tied up in a trip that may not take place.

Travel in the UK both internationally and domestically is unlikely to resume to any substantial level until restrictions are gone, as 47% of UK-based respondents in the GlobalData Covid-19 Recovery Survey (week 9) ‘strongly disagree’ that they would book an international trip this year. The financial and health risks are too high for restrictions that have the possibility to change so frequently, as they did in the summer.

For Travel and Tourism industry data, comment and analysis,

visit GlobalData's Tourism Intelligence Centre.

Credit: Stratos Brilakis |