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Online Tracking Using Cookies and Similar Technologies: An Analysis of Hotel Company Practices

The Emerald Handbook of ICT in Tourism and Hospitality

ISBN: 978-1-83982-689-4, eISBN: 978-1-83982-688-7

Publication date: 30 November 2020


Hotels, the second largest component of online travel, have traditionally collected customer data through loyalty or customer relationship management programmes, compiling data about customers and using it to improve customer service and marketing efforts (Piccoli & O’Connor, 2003). Recent growth in online sales has given them access to even more granular and topical data. In particular technologies such as cookies, web bugs and beacons allow data on an individual’s browsing (e.g. the pages they have visited or the searches they have conducted) to be collected, consolidated and analysed to reveal detailed insights about customers which can subsequently be used for marketing purposes (Gilbert, 2008). While previous studies have investigated data collection by hotels, for the most part these have focussed on data surrendered voluntarily, with none addressing data collection through automated means. This chapter therefore attempts to fill this research gap, investigating whether and how hotel companies use such techniques, and whether consumers are adequately informed about this data collection process. Using the top 50 global hotel brands as a population, it explores both cookie disclosure and cookie practice by global hotel brands. The findings demonstrate that hotel brands, particularly those with their headquarters in the USA, are making extensive use of online monitoring technologies, typically for marketing purposes. In most cases, this data collection is happening surreptitiously, with the data protection notices that exist overtly long as well as crouched in highly technical language. Despite legislative changes that amplify the need to inform consumers about data collection, few hotel chains currently comply with the principles of informed consent, leaving many open to potential sanction.



O’Connor, P. (2020), "Online Tracking Using Cookies and Similar Technologies: An Analysis of Hotel Company Practices", Hassan, A. and Sharma, A. (Ed.) The Emerald Handbook of ICT in Tourism and Hospitality, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 33-44.



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