Monthly Archives: March 2013

Hospitality Industry Data Security Risks: Hotels Are At Significant Risk Of “Large-Scale Hacking” Of Guest Personal Information, Including Information In Reservation Systems

“Data security is becoming an issue of significant importance in the hospitality industry…(because of) an increase in hacks and malware attacks, which frequently target hotel systems because they’re a rich source of cybercrime in hotelspersonal information… hackers aren’t just targeting data on hotel systems but also the information passed along to reservations systems…credit card theft is much easier — and more likely — through large-scale hacking…another reason hotel guests are vulnerable to having their personal information stolen: They’re easily distracted.”

Several days after Traci Fox visited a small independent resort in the Catskill Mountains, she received an unexpected call from a shoe store. Where did she want it to ship the $400 worth of pricey sneakers that she’d ordered?

Fox believes that her hotel may have compromised her credit card information. At least one government agency shares her concerns. Last summer, the Federal Trade Commission sued Wyndham Hotels, alleging that the company had failed to protect its customers’ personal information. As a result, the FTC claims, hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers fell into the wrong hands, leading to millions of dollars in fraud-related losses. Wyndham denies any wrongdoing and is fighting the suit.

The problem may run deeper than the theft of credit card numbers, however.

The personally identifiable information in your guest profile, such as your home address, your license plate number and your date of birth, which is attached to your reservation, can end up in the hands of a third party that offers little or no warranties about how it will protect your data. “These kinds of areas are more worrisome than some huge Visa bill,” says hotel consultant Marion Roger. “Once your identity has been cloned, you can easily spend years and hundreds of thousands in legal and other fees.”

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Filed under Crime, Guest Issues, Liability, Management And Ownership, Privacy, Risk Management, Technology, Theft

Hospitality Industry Health Risks: Alabama Hotel Guests Hospitalized After Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Caused By “Malfunctioning Heating Unit And Faulty Duct Work”

“…the problem likely had to do with a heating unit that malfunctioned in addition to some faulty ductwork. The carbon monoxide poisoningissues impacted the fifth and sixth floors of the hotel…in addition to the 11 total guests exhibiting symptoms on Friday morning, a family of four also were said to have been experiencing flu-like symptoms. The family was urged to seek medical treatment and did so before returning to their home in Florida…”

Fifteen guests at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Hoover were taken to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning on Friday. According to Hoover Fire Department Lieutenant Rusty Lowe, firefighters received a call at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning about an unresponsive guest at the hotel.

Upon arrival, fire officials discovered ten additional guests who were exhibiting symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. The guests’ symptoms ranged from headaches and nausea to mental problems.

All of the impacted guests were transferred to a nearby hospital for treatment.

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Filed under Guest Issues, Health, Liability, Maintenance, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Crime Risks: Hotel Management Must Become More Aware Of Child Sex Trafficking At Properties; Front Desk Employees And Staff Must Be Trained To Look For Visual Clues

“…front desk employees, for example, are encouraged to look for visual clues like signs of abuse or fear among Child Sex Traffickingpotential victims; young people made up to look older; and clients who pay with cash, are reluctant to provide identification or have no luggage…housekeeping staff might be alerted to criminal activity if there are an unusually large number of electronic devices in guest rooms, or many condoms in the wastebasket…”

THE travel industry — long an unwitting participant in human trafficking at hotels and on airplanes, trains and buses — lately has been increasing efforts to combat the problem, working with private advocacy groups and the federal government in long-term, coordinated initiatives that go beyond its normal philanthropic activities.

“People don’t realize how prevalent it is,” Sam Gilliland, chief executive of the travel technology company Sabre Holdings, said of the trafficking problem. “It is not restricted to certain areas in the world. It’s everywhere.”

He called human trafficking a $32 billion-a-year business, but the Polaris Project, an advocacy group, thinks it is higher. The group said that an estimated 21 to 27 million people globally are held as virtual slaves.

Stephen Barth, a lawyer and professor of hospitality law at the University of Houston, said he believed that among the travel industry’s major brands, awareness of the problem had become widespread. “The goal now is to create more awareness among the 50,000 independent hotels scattered all over the U.S. and around the world,” he said.

But challenges remain, particularly among cheaper properties. “Franchisers don’t actually operate the franchised hotels,” which can result in variable compliance, he said. And at some properties, both franchised and independent, security might consist of only one person at the front desk.

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Filed under Crime, Guest Issues, Labor Issues, Liability, Management And Ownership, Training

Hospitality Industry Crime Risks: Arizona Hotel Guest Reports $2,000 Stolen After Front Desk Accidently Gives Out Victim’s Room Key

“…The hotel front desk worker told police he accidentally gave the suspect the victim’s room key after forgetting the room was already Hotel Theft Surveillanceassigned…a short time later, the suspect and an unidentified man checked out, saying the room was dirty, according to the police report. By the time the victim came back to her room, her purse and clothes bag were gone…”

A 24-year-old Arizona woman had an interesting response when given the wrong room key at an Oak Creek hotel last week: Steal the clothes and purse of the person staying there. According to a police report, the woman took advantage of a mix-up at the Days Inn front counter and got off with more than $2,000 worth of valuables and clothes belonging to a woman staying at the hotel with co-workers.

The purse contained a phone, credit cards, social security card, $30 in cash, a diamond ring valued at $1,500 and a check made out to her for $1,500. The check and credit cards were canceled.

Clothes, an iPad, sunglasses, an umbrella and more jewelry were also stolen, according to the report.

The front desk worker told the victim that Days Inn is responsible for paying to replace the items stolen, according to police.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Risks: Louisiana Hotel Sued For “Injuries Sustained By A Handicapped Guest”; Failure To Provide A Ramp Or Safe Access From Parking Lot To Room

“…the (hotel ownership) is accused of failure to provide a safe access/handicap access from the parking lot to the elevated walkway in front of the Hospitality Industry Injury Lawsuitsroom assigned to the (plaintiff)…an unspecified amount is sought for pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, permanent disability, medical expenses and loss of income/ earning capacity…”

A local branch of a national hotel chain is being sued on claims of damages for injuries sustained by a handicapped guest. Anne G. and Timothy Conwell filed a lawsuit against Days Inn Inc., Days Inn Hotel 10020 I-19 Service Road New Orleans, La. and Nguyen, Nguyen & Vu LLC in the Orleans Parish Central District Court on Jan. 22.

The Conwells claim that while registered guest at Days Inn, Anne Conwell, who suffers from a handicap, fell and broke her right arm, ball and socket joint of her right shoulder, struck her head and suffered severe injuries to her hip and back. The suit claims that the fall was a result of the defendant’s parking area not having a handicap ramp or other access from the parking area onto the walkway and entrance to the first floor level rooms.

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Hospitality Industry Health Risks: Restaurants “Cause 250% More Foodbourne Illnesses” Than Eating At Home A New CSPI Study Finds

“…the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) found there are roughly two and half times more illnesses caused by outbreak_alert_2013_final-page-001foodborne illnesses picked up by dining at restaurants than by eating at home…restaurants were involved in 1,786 outbreaks during the decade, events associated with at least 32,919 illnesses. Private residences were involved in 922 outbreaks resulting in 12,666 illnesses…another 1,229 outbreaks occurred in multiple locations —schools, jobsites, catered events, etc.—and were responsible for at least 42,301 illnesses…”

Some of CSPI’s other findings include:

  • Foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were responsible for twice as many fully investigated outbreaks as those regulated by the U.S.Department of Agriculture.
  • Dairy and produce outbreak levels remained relatively unchanged, while most of the declines came in seafood, beef, pork and poultry,
  • Pound for pound, seafood remains the most risky food, followed by poultry, produce and dairy.
  • The most common contaminant/vehicle pairing is Salmonella in poultry.

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Filed under Food Illnesses, Guest Issues, Health, Liability, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Hospitality Industry Technology Solutions: New California Hotel Features “Virtual Check-In System” Utilizing Tablets For Reservations And Services; Apple TVs Synch To Guests’ iPhone And iPad Applications

“…virtual hotel check-ins (feature) a Cool Concierge which bypasses the human version of concierge or front desk service…guests use the tablet-system themselves to look up directions, phone numbers, make reservations, check their in-mobile technologyflight status and print boarding passes…(the hotel’s) Smart Check-In also allows guests to bypass the front desk and straight to their rooms using radio frequency technology or RFID, or wireless, non-contact systems…”

A new hotel that heavily favors Apple users — and could alienate their Android market base — has opened steps from the Apple’s brain center in Cupertino, California. All 123 rooms at Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Aloft Hotels, whose tagline is “style at a steal,” will feature Apple TVs that can sync with guests’ iPhones, iPads or iPod Touch devices and their personal iTunes accounts.

Guests can choose among movie titles from iTunes, connect to Netflix for films, or Hulu for TV shows, and play their personal videos and photos on the in-room’s 42-inch LCD flatscreen TV.

As pointed out by CNET, it’s not the first time a hotel chain has opted to go with Apple TVs for their in-room entertainment. Staybridge Suites in London’s Olympic Village was also outfitted with the small, portable devices which enable guests to access their personal iTunes accounts.

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Filed under Guest Issues, Labor Issues, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Technology