Know Your Guest: Why secure identity verification needs to be a top priority for hotels

Last updated: 04 June 2021

The hospitality and travel industries are slowly starting to stir back into life following the challenging year they faced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Hotels, resorts and casinos are preparing to welcome back tourists by ensuring they can offer visitors a pleasant stay while adhering to health and safety regulations. This includes putting in place processes and procedures to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk to staff and guests in the short term.

However, hotels also need to demonstrate robust methods of validating guest identity. This is not only important for supporting contract tracing efforts governments have put in place, but also for protecting travellers from becoming a victim of crime or even terrorism.

What’s the link between identity verification, terrorism and crime?

It can actually be quite prevalent! The number of human lives sadly lost in terrorist attacks on hotels during the past decade has shown that hotels are often targeted because of their international visitors, symbolic status as global brands, and high media exposure following the horrific event. Weakness in security systems and procedures such as check-in processes, data security, personal document verification, etc. is also a reason why hotels are targeted. In fact, after the horrifying Sri Lanka terrorist attack in 2019, involving three high profile hotels, it was revealed that all three hotels had a guest checked-in with identical name and counterfeit National IDs immediately prior to the attacks.

These vulnerabilities suggest that there is a need for more effective identity verification procedures to counter the use of false ID documents at check-in.

Furthermore, recent reports on the security of the hospitality industry have focused on the vulnerability of accommodation providers to organised crime such as human trafficking. This is because hotels can unintentionally offer the privacy and anonymity required by such criminal groups to carry out their activity.

Thankfully, advancements in data security and identity verification, along with the implementation of more robust security measures and personal document checks, can play a role in minimising these crimes and ensuring the safety and security of both guests and staff. And, with identities being stolen at a rate of almost 500 a day  in the UK only, it’s never been more important to ensure seamless identity verification.

The role of automated identity verification

Although we cannot fully rely on technology to eliminate the risks of crime, terrorism and data theft, it can be used to reduce the vulnerability, increase prevention and the ability to respond in good time to the issue. Technology such as CCTV and intruder alerts have become common across the hospitality industry globally; but what happens when a person tries to check-in a hotel with a stolen or fake identity? Some of these documents are very good counterfeits, making it almost impossible for the naked eye to notice any difference. This is where automated identity verification technology comes in handy.

Also known as document readers, this technology can correctly, quickly and securely help staff to verify guests’ identity documents and determine if they are genuine or not. Once the ID document is scanned, the technology works by accurately extracting data and images from the ID card and passport and imports it seamlessly into the hotels’ property management system. It provides a quick and secure experience for both staff and visitors.

Automated identity verification technology can also be used to ensure the health and safety of visitors and staff during the pandemic. The readers allow people to check-in themselves, meaning there is no document handling from staff required. If the ID used is fake or stolen, security staff at the hotel would be immediately notified as a scan preview is sent to the Front Desk.

What is the Travel Risk Management Standard?

In response to the increased security threat posed by those using fake or stolen ID documents, a new Travel Risk Management Standard is expected to be published later this year to provide risk management guidelines. Also known as ISO 31030, these guidelines will advocate for objective and independent assessment of all aspects of travel risks including safety and security of accommodation. As a result, hotels and other accommodation providers will face more stringent demands to provide objective evidence of security standards.

Travellers’ expectations of better safety and security have been on the rise in the past few years as a result of more common cases of crime, identity theft and even terrorism associated with the hospitality industry. As lost, stolen or fake identities have been used to facilitate such criminal acts, ensuring a robust, secure, automated identity system powered by state-of-the-art technology has never been more important.

If you’re interested in finding out more on how to protect travellers and manage risk, download our whitepaper here.  We also recently took part in a webinar with our partners Acuant, Adria Scan and the Global Secure Accreditation to discuss why KYC is critical in the hospitality industry. You can watch the full session here. If there are any topics or questions we didn’t touch on in this blog or the webcast, do let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us at @ThalesDigiSec, and we’ll get back to you with an answer!

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