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Price hikes for UK staycations need to be implemented with caution

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

The latest coping strategy for UK lodging operators is to hike up prices to make up for lost revenues in 2020, but this needs to be done with caution.

Accommodation providers are having to increase prices to aid balance sheet recovery after a tumultuous year in 2020. Whilst this is likely an essential move for many to simply stay operational, hiking prices too extravagantly could damage reputation in the long-term.

Demand for domestic holidays is high in the UK as international travel restrictions remain in place. Due to rising unemployment across the UK, many are suffering financial constraint and may reconsider booking a trip if prices sky-rocket. Accommodation providers now need to find the right balance between being fair and taking advantage of high demand in order to remain ‘appealing’ in the recovery of travel.

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

Hiked prices will not recoup last year’s losses

Popular holiday spots throughout the UK such as Cornwall have been recording mass bookings for summer 2021. Domestic staycations have repeatedly been named as the ‘winner’ in post-pandemic travel and the first to benefit from returning demand.

Robert Hutson, owner of Pig Hotel Chain operating seven rural UK hotels, declared bookings for summer were up 25%, comparable to the same period in 2019. Monthly maintenance and staff costs, while his properties were closed in 2020, means that last year’s losses are not likely to be recouped, despite the demand spike for Pig Hotel Chain. Upon re-opening, the industry is also faced with more robust cleaning procedures to mitigate the spread of infection, which is only likely to increase outgoings for lodging providers.

Many travellers remain cash-strapped

Holiday-deprived travellers are seeking more local and rural getaways this year, but many are likely to be more financially constrained. 76% of UK respondents in GlobalData’s COVID-19 Recovery survey (2- 6 Dec 2020) declared they were ‘extremely’, ‘quite’ or ‘slightly’ concerned about their own personal financial situation. The UK unemployment rate currently sits at 5.1%, which has increased by 1.3% in comparison to 2019, according to GlobalData’s Covid-19 country dashboard. The nationwide rollout of vaccines is expected to stimulate economic recovery, but UK unemployment is expected to continue rising for the rest of the year due to the volatility of the current situation, according to the Office for UK Budget Responsibility.

Whilst price hikes may be a necessity to remain in operation, travellers will recognise when lodging providers are taking advantage of the situation in an unfair way, which could end up prolonging recovery even further. Providers need to increase prices cautiously and always be transparent in order to keep customers onside and inspire loyalty.

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