Data privacy an important element, even for travel companies

As Newton put it many years ago, ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. As Digital opportunity rises and companies rush to implement digital transformation, the opposite reaction to this are rising data breaches and thefts. It’s especially true when it comes to the travel industry as there have been multiple data breach incidents in the recent past.

Last November, the Marriot group admitted to data breach of 500 million guests; October saw a similar admittance from Radisson Group who confirmed a data breach for Radisson rewards members.  British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines – aviation brands are similarly plagued. All in all, the industry is suffering as a whole.

This does not mean that the industry is not trying to minimize threats and work towards better security and safeguards against such thefts. Many companies are actively trying to help corporate travellers protect valuable business data. But travel has always been a complicated endeavour and business travel specifically involves high-risk data with different entities located around the world. Business travel is increasingly driven by data-powered consumer technologies that can cause privacy problems if they are not handled carefully.  With the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation now in force, it’s imperative for companies to treat GDPR compliance as an opportunity rather than a risk.

Here are some ways to minimize data risks for business travellers: -

  • Integrated Travel expense and management – Using an integrated data management tools/platform that provide end to end solution in a seamless and simplified manner – from booking business travel, completing an expense claim is a good way to protect data. Such a platform will utilize stringent measures to maintain data integrity by capturing itinerary and e-receipts directly from suppliers, updating corporate credit card transactions and managing cash advances
  • Ensuring Compliance – Companies also need to either implement or revamp their company's travel policies as soon as possible. This will ensure that the employees duly follow the rules and will help them make the right travel decisions
  • Educating employees to take steps to maintain privacy and security – Enterprise need to ensure that their employees take personal steps to safeguard themselves - e.g. using a privacy filter on laptops/tablets; PIN/password usage/lock alarms/ or using a juice-jack protector to protect against data skimmers etc. when not using the device. This will help in maintaining company wise theft and ensure personal compliance as well
  • Using new technologies to fight data breaches – For instance, blockchain present numerous opportunities to improve travel and expense management. Beginning with identity verification, eliminating awkward exchanges with passport control to loyalty and bonus programmes, the world’s most secure ledger can help in tightening information security in T&E. Similarly, automation via AI/ML can also prove beneficial.

The pace of digital transformation is not going to stop; In fact, as per a recent study by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and McKinsey & Co, India can create up to $1 trillion of economic value from the digital economy in 2025, with half of the opportunity originating in new digital ecosystems. This holds true for the travel industry also and makes it even more important for enterprises to make sure data thefts are minimized and compliance is ensured for a better, secure and profitable future.


Author: Andy Watson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China, SAP Concur

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