Covid-19 and Hospitality: Could Technology be a Foe as well as a Friend?

Track and Trace data collection as a norm, deep cleansing schedules embedded within room changeover routines, tables spread far apart and no service from the bar. These are all the norm for a ‘new’ hospitality sector now bereft of its ketchup bottles, menus and table talkers and having to rapidly turn to technological sources to pave a new way forward.

The UK hospitality sector is said to have shrunk by 87% in Q2 2020 according to UK hospitality trade association and research firm, the CGA. Some big names have already disappeared. Many more could follow under the new regime. As the British Institute of Innkeeping stresses – pubs promote the very opposite to social distancing.

Reopening, for many, relied on having Apps, online systems and other technological features that could make health situations less of a concern. Self-check-in systems have been introduced by some, others have had to go cashless, relying solely on pre-payments and bank transfers. Some have invested in thermal imaging technology. Others could consider the lead set by a café in Surrey and have robots serve tables, not as a quirky gimmick but as a solution to health and safety compliance and making customers feel comfortable.

With technology at the heart of many of the new methodologies deployed to provide hospitality services, there is another potential cloud on the horizon
for businesses currently focused on making up for lost time and seeking to maintain health and safety compliance, in accordance with the guidelines.

The more they utilise Apps and software, the more digital bank transfers they handle and the more that storage of customer data occurs, the more they open themselves up to new or larger cyber risks.

Cyber-crime continues to grow as a risk and with Covid-19 being so prominent in business owners thoughts to getting their business viable again, there is opportunity for cyber-criminals to exploit weaknesses. The cyber-criminal is looking to find entry routes into systems that they know will then offer them opportunities to attack bigger fish within our connected world.

The cyber-criminal wants your clients to be desperate to get their online shop, customer interface, or booking system back up and running that they neglect this area, and not having cyber-cover in place means that they could end ending up paying a ransom just to re-start their business. Another complication your clients do not need at this time. Whatever the motivation, it can be one more unwanted headache for any business and having protection in place can help keep the correct focus for a business.

The added worry is that, where there is cyber-crime, there is data involved and unprotected data, held in a non-compliant way, can result in a hefty GDPR fine and the reputational damage that comes with having exposed customers’ details.

Part of the hospitality sector’s ‘back to work’ planning may include ensuring the right cyber security is in place, supported by Cyber insurance, to cover the costs if something does go wrong. Whilst many operators are focusing on their duty of care to keep employees and customers safe and healthy, they should also perhaps take stock of any new technology or ways of doing things via technology, that could be leaving them exposed in other areas.

Having Cyber insurance in place is not just about covering costs incurred following an attack. It can also provide the access to expert support that many small and medium-sized businesses could not afford to buy. For those not now printing their party brochures and Autumn and Christmas table menus, perhaps it is time to use that spend to cover the cost of a Cyber insurance premium.