Decades ago, the idea of using a mobile phone to check into a hotel was incomprehensible. Now, it’s almost commonplace.
With new technology developing at a fast rate and the travel industry considering implementing vaccine passports, contactless solutions are critical in providing safe guest experiences. But many hoteliers are still learning about the newest contactless solutions, and others question just how secure they may be.
Read on to learn more about which contactless solutions are popular, the security threats they pose, how to safely implement contactless solutions into your hotel and how to prepare for future implementations like vaccine passports.
What are contactless solutions, and what is a vaccine passport?
Contactless check-in allows hoteliers to provide guests with both convenient and germ-free access to their room on a mobile device. While some mobile access solutions allow guests to check-in without identification verification, newer solution enhancements have made contactless check-ins more secure. Using a smartphone’s camera to scan a government ID, a photo of the guest and credit card information, digital identity verification technology will verify that the ID is authentic and matches the person pictured. The online reservation form will then pre-populate the personal information and payment data fields—bypassing the need to stop by the front desk at all. Beyond contactless check-ins, many hotels allow their guests to use their phones as digital keys for the duration of their stay.
Since the availability of the COVID vaccine, the travel industry has also been trying to figure out a standardized method for guests to show proof of vaccination; and, with the rise of contactless solutions, the implementation of a digital vaccine certificate (or a “vaccine passport”) seems to be the best solution. Like contactless check-in and mobile keys, a vaccine passport would likely live on a hotelier’s app. Though no singular solution has been announced yet, many governments have already implemented digital vaccine passport technology—and the travel industry will not be far behind.
Why are people worried?
The first pandemic in the digital age has required a lot of fast thinking—even the current method for verifying vaccines, by providing vaccinated individuals with a small card, is highly prone to falsification. Already, fake COVID-19 vaccination cards are being sold online for hundreds of dollars. Critics argue that going digital may make it even easier to falsify vaccination documents.
Privacy is yet another concern. With HIPAA laws in mind, the travel industry must implement vaccine passports that will request enough information to verify an individual’s vaccination, while simultaneously preventing the exposure of other confidential health information.
Protecting a guest’s personal information is a never-ending battle concern for hoteliers in other ways, too: hackers have always targeted hotels, and the development of contactless solutions has only further enticed cybersecurity hacks and data breaches. An abundance of personal information and credit card data is now stored in a hotel’s systems and on a guest’s phone; cybercriminals will probe a hotel for any weaknesses in their systems or may even hack a guest’s mobile device to steal highly monetized information. And, with compliance policies like the GDPR, hoteliers risk facing hefty fines for data breaches.
How would hospitality address this?
The best method to combat these concerns is to increase cybersecurity. Develop a multifactor authentication process and require it for new guests, or for guests showing unusual behavioral patterns. A notification system may provide additional warnings against hacker activity by alerting guests to changes made in their profiles. Cybersecurity efforts extend to employees, too: training staff to handle personal information security, educating them on new threats and regularly changing access credentials will also prevent cyberattacks.
Additionally, a hotelier can select a third-party vendor that offers secure contactless solutions. When selecting a technology provider, hoteliers should ask to see their cybersecurity policies and procedures, and ask who will have the rights to guest data.
Upon increasing cybersecurity for contactless check-ins, hoteliers can begin to look at how to best handle vaccine passports. Hoteliers should determine how to integrate vaccine records into their reservation system and check-in processes; third-party access providers may soon begin to offer vaccine record data storage, making the process easier for hoteliers. Hoteliers should also ensure that they will be able to comply with local vaccine requirements, including determining whether unvaccinated guests will be allowed to reserve a room, and comply with government vaccine certificate audits. For vaccine passports themselves, an industry standard on required documents must be developed—turning to a hotelier’s national government vaccine passports, if developed, may shine a light on the best procedures.
Vaccine passport rollouts are just beginning, and there will certainly be bumps along the way—but, by increasing digital security, utilizing a third-party access provider and developing a plan for implementing vaccine passport requirements, hotels can best prepare for the road ahead.