Data Security Aspects Every Traveller Must be Aware of While Travelling or on Vacation

An IIM Bangalore Alumnus, Sriram has had an illustrious 25-year career during which he has successfully handled key responsibilities with companies such as Kaashyap Radiant Systems, Polaris Software Lab, Oracle Corporation and Syniverse, and Sabre which he joined in 2018. In a recent conversation with Siliconindia, Sriram Gopalswamy, VP - Site Reliability Engineering & MD, Sabre India shared his insights on various aspects pertaining to data privacy in the travel industry and the role technology will play in this regard. Below are the excerpts from the exclusive interview

How do you see the travel industry shaping-up today in India post covid?

Despite the massive scale at which the covid pandemic adversely impacted the travel & tourism industry and uncertainties that it brought along, the industry is showing tremendous improvement in recent times. Be it any airport, railway station or bus terminal, each of them are bustling all day long with passengers, as people have now started travelling extensively for both business and pleasure. In 2022 alone, there were over seven million travel visas availed by Indians for various countries.  The ‘revenge travel’ trend that took birth post the pandemic has been a key driving force behind the industry’s astounding improvement across both domestic and international travel segments post covid.

Give us a brief comparison between the advantages and disadvantages of technology for travellers while on vacation?

I feel technology to be more advantageous to travellers although there may be a few drawbacks as well. Today, be it selecting a destination, planning the vacation, making travel & hotel arrangements of our choice and even making payments online for those bookings, the entire process has been made hassle-free due the implementation of cutting-edge technologies. For instance, social media has created a massive impact on the travel industry for both customers and travel companies alike by acting as both a source of information, as well as an effective advertising medium. Also, increased smartphone penetration and easy access to high speed internet has enabled customers to take informed decisions to check for reviews and compare various available options prior to booking anything.

Additionally, digital payments have now eased the entire financial transactions process by sparing tourists the hassle of carrying cash and being constantly conscious about the money they are carrying. Furthermore, customers are now able to use their GPS-equipped smartphones to easily commute across the city without the fear of getting lost and being well-informed about the various available routes and travel options. For a country as diverse & large as India, technology has no doubt been a true enabler for tourists in every aspect possible.

As for the disadvantages are concerned, most people go on vacation to get relieved of their stress and detox themselves from the constant tech & digital exposure they go through in their daily lives. Thus, it is very much important for travelers to ensure that they do not spend much time with technology by limiting the usage of smartphones or even keeping mobile internet data off during their vacation times. This way, you can also get to know the local culture better by indulging in a conversation with localites instead of relying on technology for information.

What are some of the measures travellers must take to ensure data privacy while traveling abroad?

The biggest potential risk that any person can expose himself/herself to while traveling in terms of data security is connecting their devices to public Wi-Fi networks. Secondly, even if you do connect to such networks, make sure you do not make any financial transactions or access sensitive data online such as your bank login details. Another very useful measure to ensure data privacy while on vacation is to have a VPN installed on your device since it is very effective in keeping cybercriminals at bay even when you are connected to the public Wi-Fi networks. Also, always use the incognito mode while browsing for anything and avoid using your regular browser where many of your personal login credentials would be stored. Furthermore, enabling two-factor authentication for all your online accounts that you have login credentials for is one of the most efficient way to ensure data security even during your regular days as well. Lastly, encrypting your device always keeping your device OS updated will go a long way in staying clear any kind of cyber threats.

How can travel companies integrate technology into their existing practices to ensure data security of tourists?

Since travel companies collect a sensitive customer data such as their passport details, credit card info and many others, it is paramount that they have all the necessary measures in place to keep customers’ data secure to the fullest extent possible. Additionally, they must also conduct necessary training programs for their employees to create awareness among them about the importance of data security and ways in which they can safely handle data or report any suspicious activity that they come across. This way, travel companies must bring-in a culture of security and sensitivity among all their employees towards handling customer data. Also, travel businesses must be fully compliant with GDPR and CCPA guidelines, and make sure that every software & applications they use are designed keeping in mind these regulations.

Throw some light on the impact cybersecurity will have on the travel industry in the near future?

Currently, there are a considerable number of cybersecurity related incidents that are occurring on a regular basis across all industries worldwide. As an  industry that collects sensitive customer data, cybersecurity has a massive role to play in the travel industry’s growth going forward. Every traveler leaves a digital footprint behind, through digital accounts. As a consumer, one should be careful and pass only the required information, especially because  there are several third-party agencies involved in the travel ecosystem. Every travel company must therefore ensure they utilize software or applications where only the necessary data is collected from the customers and stored in the safest way possible.  As we embark on a significant digital transformation journey within the travel industry, cybersecurity will play a vital role in not only safeguarding our ecosystem, but also in minimizing data sharing to ensure its safety.