As the travel industry adopts more technology to keep travelers and industry members safe during the pandemic, there’s the risk the technology could be too invasive in the long run.
Travel will return to levels we saw in 2019 and much earlier this year, but it will take time. People who travel now are seeing the changes in the entire experience, but a majority of those who normally would be traveling throughout the year won’t see these changes until months (hopefully not years) from now.
The changes I’m going to focus on are technological ones that could have implications for people’s privacy. National Geographic recently published a story about new travel technology that could invade travelers’ privacy throughout their entire journey from booking through flights, hotel stays and posting on social media.
Much of what the article covers takes place outside of hotels and, therefore, outside of what hotel companies can control. There’s use of facial recognition technology for IDs and other biometric data collection as well as contact tracer apps and GPS trackers.
While some of this technology, such as facial recognition, has been in the works for widespread adoption for a while, much of this is in response to the coronavirus pandemic. While there is value to many of these types of technology in the name of preventing the further spread of infection, technology adopted for one purpose tends to stick around and become used for much more once the original reason fades away.
As a society, we’ve all become pretty used to sharing information about ourselves in exchange for different services because we think the value of what we’re getting is greater than what we’re giving away. Sometimes that might be true, and maybe even individually that’s mostly true, but collectively, the information we share with companies about ourselves is incredibly valuable to them. If people fully understood what businesses could and want to do with our collective personal information, I think more would hesitate before clicking submit.
Hoteliers have a responsibility to keep themselves, their fellow hoteliers, their guests and their communities healthy and safe by taking the necessary precautions. Technology can certainly help them in this respect, but there is a line they could cross if they’re not careful. There is so much out there that the general public doesn’t realize is watching them and tracking them either out of generally being unaware or being so overloaded they can’t keep track of it all. Do your best not to add to that.
Be upfront with guests about whatever technology you’re using that collects their biometric or personal information. Be clear in any explanation you give them. Give them the opportunity to opt in whenever possible and be able to explain what opting out means. Remember that any personal information you collect about your guests becomes your responsibility to protect.
People are wary of traveling and staying in hotels because of the coronavirus. Along with showing them you can keep them safe and healthy during their stays, make it clear to them they can count on you to safeguard their personal information as well.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.