Solving the Privacy Paradox

How do we deal with travelers' data?


Organisations in Travel & Hospitality want to exchange customer data in order to align their activities, but run into limitations on multiple levels. We need to find a solution—before someone else does.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, emerging technologies have had a tremendous impact on the travel experience. We’ve seen the arrival of online booking, web care, review sites, and service apps.
And looking at the work Mirabeau is bringing to market for our clients these days—AI, voice interfaces, biometrics—it is obvious that travel technology will continue to stay in flux.

Solving the Privacy paradox | Mirabeau

But as we embrace technology to create seamless, pleasurable travel experiences, we run into some very human concerns. It’s the single concept we discuss with every one of our clients: the collection and exchange of customer data. Mirabeau is approaching this topic head-on, determined to help create a new, healthy balance between industry success and traveler needs.

Facing the challenge
At the 2017 Emerce eTravel Europe event in Amsterdam, Remco Vroom of Mirabeau took the stage with a clear message: The Travel & Hospitality (T&H) industry needs to rethink how we deal with data.

As Mirabeau’s Business Lead for T&H, Remco understands the strategic importance of building up customer data: “I think it’s safe to say that we all understand that the reality of the travel journey is door-to-door, and that one of the industry’s core challenges is how to organize ourselves around that reality. But to be able to align our activities, we have to exchange data about our travelers.”

And that’s where things start to get complex.

The Privacy Paradox
Over the years, people have become more understanding about how their data is used to optimize their journey. Certainly in case of disruptions, more and more travelers see the benefit of allowing their data to be exchanged between parties in the travel chain.

“People are opening up to the benefits of data exchange across the travel chain.”
Data source: OAG Report: Building Loyalty and Enhancing Customer Care During Travel Disruptions (2014).

At the same time, reports show that people are getting increasingly nervous about protecting their data. And that’s not surprising, considering the things we see in the news. We learned about the NSA’s spying practices that reached all the way into our personal domains, and the recent Equifax data breach that left the personal records of more than 140 million US citizens exposed.

“What we’re looking at here is what’s called the ‘Privacy Paradox’: On the one hand, people want the convenience associated with the availability of customer data, while on the other hand, they feel less and less comfortable sharing that data,” Remco explains.

Legislation is catching up
The new Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is coming into play in February 2018. This European legislation intends to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the EU, with requirements such as the need for clear consent, and the fairly well-known ‘Right to be Forgotten’. For businesses, it signals once again that there is action to be taken.

It’s not data ownership that should be your main concern—it’s the changing relationship with your customers.

Remco Vroom, Business Lead T&H, Mirabeau

Remco: “We see the same set of questions with every one of our clients. They range from relatively simple questions, like: ‘How can we get the required consent from our travelers?’ to more complex ones, like: ‘If we share our data, then who ultimately owns it?’ and ‘What should we get in return?’ But I would say that it’s not data ownership that should be your main concern—it’s the changing relationship with your customers. Because now that people are gaining better control over who has and doesn’t have their personal data, your freedom and access to their data decreases. Effectively, you’re losing control over the customer relationship.”

Threat or opportunity?
In his talk, Remco emphasizes that not just a threat, but also an opportunity lies before us. To provoke deeper thinking, he uses the example of Cloaked: a start-up that offers people the ability to exercise more control over their data. 

Solving the Privacy paradox | Mirabeau

“Cloaked puts the choice of which data to share in the hands of the user.”

With a Cloaked login, people can determine for themselves which data they want to share with a company. And in the same fashion, users can revoke access to their data, by simply toggling a switch. And this can include all other data the company has on the user, enforcing the Right to be Forgotten.

But what Cloaked also allows – but only when given consent – is the exchange of anonymous data between parties. In our case: between travel parties. This opens up the path to a seamless, end-to-end travel experience. So Cloaked offers businesses customer data on a silver platter, while the customer remains in control over his or her data.

Solving the Privacy paradox | Mirabeau

β€œMore and more companies are opening up to Cloaked.”

In reality, Cloaked is merely an imaginary start-up that Mirabeau conceived during earlier explorations of the topic, but the message was clear: If we don’t act on these needs, some other party will.

Rethink how we deal with data
So there lies a real opportunity in the customer demand for data protection. But only if we rethink how we deal with data, and approach it from a customer perspective. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that people flock to brands that are better aligned to their personal values,” Remco says. “And if that’s not you, the result is that you’re losing the relationship.” 

Sound challenging? It is. But Remco believes that Mirabeau has got what it takes to create a breakthrough. He says: “Mirabeau is in the unique position of having everything that’s needed in-house: Strategy, creativity, technology and an innovative mindset. And over the years, we’ve developed strong relationships with partners throughout all segments of the T&H ecosystem.”

“Let’s shape the future of T&H, together”  
Closing off his talk, Remco reaches out to the audience and invites them to participate in a collaboration that Mirabeau will initiate with stakeholders from these segments: intermediaries, public transport, airports, airlines and accommodations.

Remco stresses how seriously Mirabeau takes this: “We have a real opportunity here to shape the future of T&H. But we will have to do this together. By breaking down the walls between our organisations, a world of possibilities will open up. One of new value for our travelers, and certainly also one of strategic value for ourselves.”