Should Hotels Track, and Blacklist, Bad Guests?

Hoteliers may be able to detect and deflect “problem” guests before they can even step foot in the lobby, thanks to a new database subscription system in the UK called Guestscan, which aims to share information about guests who have caused problems in the past.  While CRM solutions strengthen the relationship with a hotel’s most profitable guests, Guestscan would do the opposite: prevent a potential “bad” relationship before it starts. 

Sure, current CRM solutions house all sorts of tidbits about guests, from dietary needs to pillow preferences to  issues that may bar them from a repeat visit, but systems like Guestcan take the initiative a step further.  The shared database could effectively blacklist so-called “nightmare” guests from many hotels before they’ve even had a chance to stay, along with raising privacy issues. 

Guestcan has already received its share of flak from privacy advocates, as this  USA Today article notes.  When guests are blacklisted, their information, which could include ethnicity, race and sexual orientation, remains in the database for a long time.  When a guest does business with a private establishment, both sides should be able to record their experiences with each other, but the sharing of that information with outside entities is the question.

Another issue to consider is the validity of those making the judgement, since the database is essentially created and maintained by Guestscan  members who report on issues such as abusive behavior, non-payment, excessive noise and so forth.  Is one hotel’s difficult guest likely to be the same as another’s?

Guestcan is designed primarily for small hotels and bed-and-breakfasts – those with the most to lose from destructive guests. These establishments certainly could benefit from such a system.  And, whether in a large hotel or small, the overall guest experience is improved when the most problematic guests are removed.

Regardless of the privacy, ethical and fairness issues surrounding a shared database, it strikes me as impractical to expect most phone reservationists to take the extra step of searching for, and evaluating, each guest’s potential for trouble before accepting the reservation. In fact, this could  raise more hotel quality assurance issues than ever anticipated.

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