A recent report by professional services firm Deloitte found that travelers are losing faith in the ability of hotels and airlines to effectively protect loyalty program data. Three-quarters of respondents said they believe the information submitted to rewards programs should be protected at least to the same standard as financial information, but only 33 percent believe their accounts are currently secure enough.
As the study pointed out, travel companies are constantly on the lookout for new ways to create personalized loyalty programs and enhance the customer experience. Travelers' lack of trust in the security standards of these companies, however, is limiting the type and amount of information customers are willing to share and hampering efforts to create new programs.
Without access to users' personal data, airlines and hotels are restricted in the degree to which they are able to offer customized experiences that are capable of engaging customers and creating repeat business.
According to the report, which surveyed over 1,000 Americans, only 32 percent of customers are comfortable sharing personal information, like hobbies and location, with travel companies' loyalty programs for fear of having it stolen. The survey also found that, despite their reputation for sharing everything about themselves online, millennials are also reluctant to provide rewards programs with their personal data, with only 40 percent feeling their information is safe.
"Frequent travelers are often the most valuable customer segment for hotels and airlines," said Deloitte partner Charles Carrington in a statement. "Companies that can persuade these customers to share detailed information about their interests, hobbies and preferences will create a highly valuable and continuous cycle: the more information they gather, the more they will be able to personalize the travel experience, and the tighter their bond with customers. But if they fail to live up to their custodial responsibility to secure customer information, that bond can be shattered in an instant."
When asked how a company suffering a data breach would impact their relationship with that provider, 23 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to use the company, and 15 percent said they would be a lot less likely.
While customers are clearly worried about the prospect of a data breach, few seem to fully grasp the broader risks involved when information shared with a company is stolen. Even though hackers can use the smallest amount of data to cause a large amount of trouble, 76 percent of respondents said their biggest concern about a data breach was the theft of credit card information.
Travel companies looking to increase customer trust and educate their clients about best cybersecurity practices should consider employing strong authentication for user information. The use of two-factor authentication is a reliable way to ensure only authorized users are able to gain access to sensitive data.
Those trying to access certain applications are required to produce multiple forms of identification to keep malicious actors from stealing client information, providing peace of mind and increased customer satisfaction.