A hotelier’s note – On Privacy

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A couple of years ago, a tv program that claimed itself to be a reality show carelessly, and unknowingly to many, made a “fatal” mistake. Every episode of the show that was hosted by two celebrities told about a guest’s search for a missing family member. On this particular episode, as it went by, the missing person – the guest’s husband – was detected staying in a famous 3-star hotel chain. The hosts and the guest rushed to the hotel to investigate and were met by the receptionist. Asked about the man’s whereabouts, the silly receptionist said:

Mam, your husband is staying with us, but he’s out at the moment.

Whether the poor woman finally found the culprit or not is not the concern here, but if you travel a lot and stay in a hotel during your trip, or if you are a hotelier like me, your common sense would have suddenly detected something weird in the receptionist’s remark. Hotel staffs are not supposed to release information about their guests under most circumstances. I hope I could tag reality show producers and get them to be more responsible (and resourceful!) so that they don’t send wrong messages to wide audience.

Then again, today, I happened to read my timeline on Twitter where I found the Twitter admin of a big 5 star hotel in Jakarta tweeted names of their VIP guests with warm, cheerful welcoming statements. By doing so, I know that this hotel PR was trying to make a positive image of the hotel – because they are capable of hosting these hot shots – but, at the expense of the guests’ privacy? How could a PR (at an international hotel brand) have lost it? I hope nobody sues anyone after that.

Some hotels make guest privacy notion very clear in writing.  They even make new employees sign an agreement that under no circumstances can they release information about their guests to a third party, even when this third party claims to be a guest’s mother. Jeopardy of privacy can result in expulsion. Some other hotels are not very strict in putting their regulations in words, and they must have been lucky so far if they have not been put in trouble because of this absence. However, privacy policy is some kind of basic agreed rule among hoteliers. At the absence of a supervisor, use your common sense when you have to make a quick decision. I personally think that it doesn’t take much to decide not to release any information about my guests to anyone, especially in social media. Because the consequence is too frightening to face, should things go wrong.

I’m lucky that I formerly worked in the front office where quick decisions had to be made in daily basis in relation to the issue of privacy. Someone claiming to be a journalist asking if so-and-so stayed in our resort. A man calling saying that his wife stayed with us and wanting to give her a birthday surprise and therefore wishing me to let him know her room number. A friend curiously asking if it was true a famous porn star was in house. These were only a few examples.

Working in the operational side also allows you to see things from the perspective of a guest. An ambassador checked in on one day with his lovely wife, and with his lady friend on another day. A world-famous illusionist who wished to have a short break from controversy. Or simply anyone who wanted secrecy for reasons we may not need to know. Isn’t that something we sometimes need, too? There’s less and less space for privacy nowadays, thanks to new gadgets and social media. How do you feel when you pay a hotel dearly in order to “disappear” only to find that they betray your trust?

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