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Guest Post: Is travel heading to a post-GDPR data nirvana?

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Guest Post: Is travel heading to a post-GDPR data nirvana?

New regulations will lead to more transparent and prosperous customer relationships, says Jon Cano-Lopez, chief executive of REaD Group

The countdown to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is on and marketers have just over four months to prepare before the legislation is implemented. Travel brands will need to ensure compliance if they’re to keep using all the information they hold on consumers to share marketing information and tailored offers.

This is an industry that uses customer information wisely, examining favourite destinations, budgets and consumer lifestyles. They’ll need to use this time to evaluate the data they hold, ensure it is accurate and review whether it’s in the consumers interest for them to keep the data. It may sound daunting, but those who prepare have nothing to fear from the new regulation, as it will ultimately lead to more transparent and prosperous relationships with customers.

What is GDPR?

The purpose of GDPR is simple; to give consumers greater control and transparency over their data. It replaces the Data Protection Act, which was implemented before many of today’s marketing channels existed back in 1998.

Most importantly, GDPR will change marketing communications for the better, despite pessimistic predictions in some corners of the business world. With changes to consent guidelines, brands may be feeling concerned about the prospect of smaller databases and fines for non-compliance.

But in reality, businesses which have consistently put consumers at the heart of their marketing strategy have nothing to fear and GDPR will ensure best practice is adhered to across the board. Plus, in welcome news for marketers in the travel industry, there are now Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) products on the market which will provide them with a solution to keep their data up to date and accurate – a key GDPR requirement.

Legitimate interest

Marketers also recently received some good news from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) when it was announced that consent is not the only lawful basis for processing which can be used to market to consumers and if you are using direct mail you can rely on “legitimate interest”.

It states that “you won’t need consent for postal marketing… you can rely on legitimate interests for marketing activities if you can show how you use people’s data is proportionate, has a minimal privacy impact and an individual is unlikely to be surprised or object.”

Despite this, it would be advisable to conduct the necessary balancing tests to ensure ‘legitimate interests’ can be used as a form of lawful basis for the data you are contacting. It was surprising to see this information tucked away in a set of FAQs specifically designed for charities, as it is applicable to all sectors and will have a positive impact on marketing going forward.

In light of this announcement, travel companies should explore the opportunities presented by direct mail and think about how to utilise the channel to secure maximum impact. We know public perceptions around direct mail are changing and because of its unobtrusive nature and tactile format, it is now favoured by many consumers.

For travel companies, unlike other sectors, the value of data sharing is clear. Many consumers would agree that they value air miles and other travel loyalty schemes. The travel sector should focus on developing these initiatives in the run-up to GDPR, to clearly demonstrate the perks and value available in information exchange with consumers.  Most consumers welcome timely, appropriate communications, especially where there are clear benefits.

The year ahead

With well-established loyalty schemes and initiatives, the travel sector is in a fortunate position as we approach GDPR. Databases will contain accurate pools of customers who are open and receptive to communications; they’ll prove far more valuable in the long-term. With more transparent relationships with consumers on the horizon, the future is looking bright for the travel sector.

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