The Challenges of Collecting Big Data in Hotels

Hoteliers know there’s value in collecting guest data, and hotel technology and use of mobile have made it more efficient for the hospitality industry to gather it. But with the benefits are also risks and challenges.

Chris Oberli, VP of e-commerce and interactive at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, said, “We would like to get as much information as possible, but it has to be very subtle to the customer. It’s a consumer’s choice whether he or she wants to provide that data.”

He added that the main goal of collecting big data in hotels is to improve guest service and, in turn, increase guest satisfaction.

“As the hotel stay has become more of an experience, (guests) are more willing to give you the information,” said Dennis Morris, Meyer Jabara Hotels director of revenue development.

Despite the priority placed on receiving guest data and feedback, hoteliers have expressed difficulty in leveraging guest data to gather actionable insight to improve business operations and guest relationships. Only 13 percent of hoteliers report a high level of maturity in their ability to analyze and use Big Data. Most use it for generating comprehensive reports and identifying upcoming trends, while a smaller number say they use it for forecasting.

Another large issue surrounding collecting big data in hotels is security. Guests have increasingly reported willingness to share their information but also express concerns about privacy and management of their provided data.

Only 13 percent of hoteliers report a high level of maturity in their ability to analyze and use Big Data.

Dr. Agnes DeFranco, University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, said, “Guests weigh the risks and benefits of information disclosure and are willing to disclose personal information to apps if the hotels make the personalization benefits clear to them and design apps that stimulate positive emotions, such as joy, pleasure, and excitement. Hotel apps should be conducive to trust, and allow guests to reduce their search time and conveniently find/personalize services that are relevant to their consumption.”

Here is a list of questions every hotelier should consider when it comes to hotel guest data security:

  1. Are you aware of all applicable state and federal privacy laws and notification requirements related to guest data?

  2. Is the guests’ personal or confidential information stored digitally or on paper? How securely is it maintained?

  3. Who has access to confidential hotel and guest data?

  4. Are all employee laptops and devices encrypted? What is the bring your own device (BYOD) policy for employees’ personal devices while on-premise?

  5. Is there a strong internal standard for passwords in use by all employees?