Data Privacy: Increased Scrutiny of Travel Companies
In the age of digital transformation, businesses across all sectors frequently experience data breaches and privacy violations. In this sense, the travel and tourism sector is hardly an exception. It might be difficult to ensure the privacy and security of such data because travel businesses frequently gather and maintain verified personnel data (such as legal names, passport numbers, and credit card information). It’s critical to keep an eye out for more secure ways to manage sensitive data as businesses in this sector expand the methods through which they acquire and handle data from their customers. Companies now rely on specialized data processing services because they need to process sensitive customer data quickly and safely.
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Privacy of Data in the Travel Sector: A Vital Issue
The amount of data breaches in the travel and tourism sector is among the greatest. The travel industry stores enormous amounts of sensitive customer data, which must be processed on a daily basis. This data is obtained in a variety of ways, including hotel reservations, the purchase of airline tickets, the submission of personnel, financial, or government-generated national identity numbers for verification, or the booking of trips. In consequence, this makes the sector the ideal setting for cybercriminals wishing to engage in financial fraud and identity theft. As a result, it is crucial for travel and tourism businesses to implement the necessary safeguards to protect sensitive employee and traveler financial information.
Why Travel Companies Are Falling Short on Data Privacy?
Cybersecurity is seen as a complicated, multidisciplinary issue that requires continual attention. It is simple to criticize a travel and tourist business for insufficient privacy and cyber security measures, but it is necessary to take into account the environment they operate in –
Controlling PII data may be challenging, especially when sharing it with several vendors (including hotels, airlines, and tour operators) is necessary.
The usage and security of third-party booking platforms are frequently relied upon by the travel and tourist industry.
Most travel businesses are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) without a professional cyber security team or Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).
How Travel Agencies Can Lower Privacy Risk?
Each travel and tourist business is different, thus it has its own set of cyber security threats. A different set of controls is essential to reduce the likelihood of a breach of personal data. To lessen the danger of a data breach, you may start by taking into account the following guidelines:
Give CRM and booking system security great priority – since they frequently hold millions of records including personally identifiable information (PII). As a result, these systems should be the focus of risk analysis and the installation of efficient security mechanisms.
Reduce the Data Collected and Shared – It may seem easy to gather and share the same customer data with all vendors, but this is not required. For instance, is it necessary to send complete passport scans to a safari operator before the trip?
Maintain PII Data for the Required Period – Always take into account how long the PII data will be needed to run the business and satisfy legal obligations. Data that is no longer required might be deleted with the use of a defined retention policy.
Focus on Access Control – Since the majority of PII data is now kept in cloud storage, access control has taken on the role of the new network cap. Start by activating 2FA for every account, then, when possible, use Single-Sign-On (SSO) to streamline management.
Track and Regulate Shadow IT Use – The vast sales and marketing teams that travel businesses typically employ have a tendency to enter data into a variety of unapproved web applications, such as data analytics platforms.
The Compliance Illusion report
More than 500 of the major marketers and publishers in the globe were examined by the compliance technology company for its inaugural Data Privacy.
Travel-related brands have received a warning that they may not be in compliance with European data protection laws.
The findings of an audit of travel websites by recently established digital marketing compliance business Compliant have been dubbed a “wake-up call” for the sector since many of them contain unauthorized links to third party data resellers. Between August and September, Complaint used its automated Data Safety Index to conduct research for its 2022 Data Privacy: The Compliance Illusion study on more than 500 of the largest advertiser and publisher websites in the globe.
It was discovered that the typical travel website had 16 piggybacked third-party tags that are performing data calls but are frequently not authorized or added by the domain owner to the website.
Increased Scrutiny of Travel Companies
Data protection has grown in importance in recent years for both organizations and consumers. Companies are under more scrutiny than ever before when it comes to protecting the personal information of their consumers due to the increase of cybercrime and the occurrence of data breaches. The travel sector is one that has received considerable attention in this respect.
trip agencies now have access to a wealth of personal information, including names, addresses, payment details, and trip itineraries, as more and more individuals book their vacation plans online. This information is extremely sensitive and, if it gets into the wrong hands, might be used for illegal activities like identity theft or credit card fraud. Governments and authorities are now calling on travel businesses to shoulder more responsibility for safeguarding the data of their clients.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which took effect in 2018, is one instance of this. The GDPR imposes stringent regulations on how businesses must manage and safeguard personal data, including the need for them to notify customers of data breaches within 72 hours. The travel sector has been significantly impacted by this, and businesses now need to invest in improved data protection strategies and employee training.
In addition to legal obligations, customers are becoming more conscious of the significance of data protection. People are demanding more transparency and control over how their data is used as they become more aware of the dangers of disclosing personal information online. This has put pressure on travel companies to be more proactive in protecting the data of their customers.
To satisfy these needs, travel businesses are investing in improved security measures, such as encryption and firewalls, to guard against cyberattacks. Additionally, they are putting in place stringent policies and processes to guarantee that only authorized staff have access to client data and that it is only used for proper purposes. This involves educating staff members about potential security dangers and how to counter them.
Major Obstacles in the Travel and Tourism Sector
According to statistics, one of the top culprits for harming a brand’s reputation are data leaks. After a data breach, an estimated 87 percent of clients will part ways with you and do business somewhere else. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to have a solid cyber security posture.
Several difficulties facing the travel and tourism sector are explored here.
Complex ownership structure – Businesses in the tourist sector, such hotels, restaurants, and travel agencies, frequently have a complex ownership structure that includes a franchisor, a management company that runs the firm, and a distinct owner or group of owners. Together, these many organizations take on various roles to maintain efficient corporate operations. Important data may be kept by these entities in several systems and may be sent continuously. In summary, these convoluted ownership structures run the risk of producing serious data breaches.
Assurance of Compliance – The travel rules of businesses need to be updated or implemented as quickly as feasible. This will guarantee that the staff complies with the regulations and assist them in making wise travel choices.
Utilization of Electronic Payment Options – Online payment options are extremely important to the tourism sector. For convenience for both customers and workers, final payments are frequently made using the same card that is already kept for these. Credit card information is required for these in order to create a reservation. A system’s whole collection of linked devices might potentially be compromised once only one file is compromised. Key financial and personal data can be easily obtained via online payment methods. With the use of various safeguards, such as a two factor authentication system, tourism and hospitality businesses must make sure that all the equipment used to store the financial information of their clients are secure.
Employee Awareness – Travel firms must make sure that its staff members take significant measures to secure the data they manage, such as utilizing privacy filters on computers and tablets and implementing PIN/password usage and lock alarms to thwart cyberattacks. This will assist in protecting the data and guaranteeing individual compliance.
Seasonal employment and staff turnover – The secure collecting and preservation of consumer and business data depends on having workers who have received the necessary training. The tourist sector, however, faces a lot of difficulties since it relies heavily on seasonal employment, where workers frequently relocate or are let go. This makes it difficult to reinforce groups of personnel who are well taught. In fact, even one inexperienced employee may give thieves simple entry points to steal private client information.
System backup and maintenance on a regular basis – Cybercriminals can easily steal data or compromise the system when obsolete software is used. As a result, it’s critical to keep the hardware and software updated on a regular basis. A simple and affordable technique to assure data security is to back up the data. Such information comprises financial records, corporate strategies, client information, personal data, etc.
Data Sovereignty and Data Disposal: Data sovereignty refers to the geographically based rights to the storage of business and consumer data. Laws linked to this topic are in place to protect data and protect people’s privacy from outside dangers. The data sovereignty principle grants any business the freedom to reveal or withhold any information that has been kept confidential by its cyber security measures. The danger of data breaches is increased since the majority of travel businesses lack data storage and disposal standards for sensitive client data and electronic information.
Making Use of New Technologies to Combat Data Breach – The application of cutting-edge technology offers a number of chances to improve data security and privacy rules. For instance, there are several ways to use blockchain to enhance travel and expenditure management. This can aid in ensuring information security by removing unpleasant interactions with passport control, identity verification, and loyalty and bonus programs. Automation using AI/ML can also be advantageous in a similar way.
Companies across all industries or sectors may experience some type of security breach as the pace of digital transformation quickly picks up. This is also true for the travel and tourism sector, and it gets harder to protect sensitive data’s privacy and security. It is more crucial than ever that businesses in this industry commit to securely handling the data they acquire from clients since they frequently modify how they do so. The implementation of successful methods by travel businesses to guarantee the protection of client data depends on having a proper grasp of the significance of data security concerns. Reputable data entry firms may provide outsourced services that guarantee data security and confidentiality while lowering the risks associated with cyber security. It is encouraging to see that travel agencies are now being scrutinized more closely for data security. Businesses must invest in the essential safeguards to preserve consumer information and take the security of personal data seriously. By doing this, businesses may stand out in a cutthroat sector while simultaneously meeting regulatory standards, earning the confidence of their clients, and differentiating themselves from the competition.
Contributed by Sanal Pillai
Edited by Imtiaz Ullah