In todays digital world, it’s becoming very common to see reports of cyber criminals breaking into the servers of some of the worlds largest corporations to steal personal data and customer credit card information. It was recently announced that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has been the victim of such an attack, and many of its European and US guest’s information has been compromised. Typically, these types of attacks are perpetrated by large and organized groups of hackers looking for as much data as possible, so the smaller independent hotel isn’t traditionally a target. However, this doesn’t mean they should relax when it comes to protecting their guests’ information. There are a number of steps independent hotels can take, and many of them start at the front desk.
Even for the smaller properties, digital threats are still something to be concerned about. Many of the newer Property Management Systems are moving to cloud based platforms. Hosting this data off site might seem like a security risk, but the servers hosting these systems have a much more complex encryption and security requirements than many hoteliers could afford locally. The only drawback to this system is that the usernames and passwords are still user generated, and far too many people are still going for easy to remember over security.
At many hotels, part of the check in the process still requires a manual imprint of the guest’s credit card. Anyone who has worked the front desk and taken these imprints have come across an upset guest about the potential risks. These imprints are usually stored with the guest’s registration card and kept in “the bucket” at the front desk. Generally, these regcard organizers are kept out in the open for easy access during the guest’s stay and are generally secure while the desk is staffed, but here in lies the problem with smaller hotels. Smaller staff sizes means many employees will generally have to do multiple jobs, and some of those may require your desk staff to step away for a few moments. They might have to run towels to a guest, or clean up a spill in the breakfast area. Any property where this might be a concern should store these imprints away from the desk in a managers office or a safe. This may alter check in procedures and disrupt the current rhythm of the check in process, but the added security and peace of mind are worth it.