In May 2018, after four years of planning, the GDPR (The General Data Protection Regulation) took effect. While it’s a European Union regulation, the GDPR affects any global business with EU customers. Hotels are particularly vulnerable to GDPR because every day they process and store guests’ personal information and credit card transactions from multiple systems.
In the lead-up to GDPR taking effect, the new regulations were a regular topic of conversation among hoteliers, who worried about whether their legacy systems and training programs would be compliant in time and if their marketing efforts would be impacted by strict new opt-in regulations and restrictions around how data can be used. We’ve even heard of hoteliers purging their databases to avoid even the possibility of a GDPR infraction, but that’s the wrong approach.
Almost a year later, it’s clear that GDPR compliance, while a monumental task for many hoteliers to complete on time, didn’t hurt hoteliers’ business in substantive ways. While Google received a hefty fine of 20M Euros for infractions, sending a chill down the spines of marketers everywhere, there are no examples of hotels getting fined for non-compliance. Rather, GDPR provided hotels with the (forced) opportunity to put processes and training in place around data collection and usage and ensure that the right steps will be taken should a breach occur.
GDPR also didn’t kill email marketing programs at hotels. While marketers must be able to prove that their audience has given consent for their data to be used for marketing purposes, specifying which data they wish to be used, nothing else has changed. In fact, after putting new opt-in processes in place and purging old or unauthorized emails, hotel marketers were left with fresh, relevant and compliant data, which served to improve the quality of subscription lists.
The truth is that consumers are happy to have brands that they do business with use their data, when the data improves their experience with the brand. Targeted emails perform better than huge blasts because relevant emails capture people’s attention. For example, using location data, hotels can know what season it is for you and tempt you with offers for sunny destinations in the middle of cold, hard winter. Using past stay data a hotel can invite you back for an annual trip, with an upgrade offer as a reward for your loyalty. And, knowing your birthday, a hotel can invite you to spend the big day in a suite, and provide cupcakes and wine when you arrive.
The responsible use of customer data is something that everyone at the hotel should be thinking about, regardless of GDPR. When data is used safely, it can be incredibly effective at driving sales and loyalty. But when it’s used nefariously or without the consumer’s consent, it can be creepy and off-putting. Now, thanks to GDPR, hotels don’t have to operate in the gray zone. They can focus on the customers that want to do business with them and forge even tighter bonds with them, versus wasting time on prospects that might never become customers.
To learn more about how Revinate Marketing ensures GDPR compliance, read more.