The information your hotel collects about you is usually inconsequential: your favorite newspaper, your husband's birthday, your preference for an ocean-side room.
But put it all together, and the data creates a powerful guest profile that allows the hotel to anticipate your needs. "Guest-history systems are an integral component of almost every property management system," says Andrew P.G. Mace, principal hospitality consultant and vice president of Talus Solutions Inc., a revenue management service provider in Atlanta.
Recently, however, travelers have expressed concern with the scope and depth of the information requested by hotel staff members. According to Mace, guest dossiers can contain data that's quite personal. What's more, properties are sharing the information within chains.
Frequent travelers are worried that personal decisions, such as which pay-per-view film they watch, might end up in the wrong hands. On Command, a leading provider of in-room video entertainment and information services, is also troubled by that possibility. It doesn't enable its hotel properties to access movie-buying habits of the guests who use On Command's services.
Is that going to stop hotels from gathering information? Not likely. For properties, the information is a goldmine of possibilities they aren't about to give up. So don't be surprised if you check into a hotel only to find a gift basket with your favorite candy in it. Remember: It's probably no coincidence.
Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at http://www.elliott.org.
Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.