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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the most robust privacy law in effect today, first enforced on 25 May 2018. It was created by the European Union (EU) to regulate organizations handling the personal data of citizens of the European Union. Online travel agencies (OTAs) also come into its purview as they deal with sensitive personal data. Is GDPR just a legal mandate to operate in the European market? How important is it for OTAs? What an OTA needs to do is become a GDPR-compliant entity. We will answer all of it in this piece. Let’s start with a bit of history first.  

Why GDPR is critical for OTAs?

OTAs often attract strict GDPR surveillance, a lot of it because one of the most known and talked about data breaches happened in the travel industry; when British Airways experienced this leak back in 2018, new GDPR rules were introduced the same year. This breach affected more than 420,000 people (about half the population of Montana). Subsequently, British Airways was heavily fined as well. 

So, this was about the severity of the rules and consequences. But GDPR is not just about compliance. Following it not only saves OTAs from potential fines but also enhances their practices in managing customer data. 

As an OTA, if you are looking to make your way into the European market or are already there but not sure about data protection regulations, read on.  

Interpreting the GDPR compliance for OTAs

Beyond a legal mandate, GDPR compliance is a strategic differentiator that fosters a culture of transparency and accountability. Let’s quickly address the elephant in the room: what it takes for OTAs to become GDPR compliant.  

1. Conduct a Holistic Data Audit

Before formulating a compliance strategy, OTAs must go into the details of their data ecosystem. A comprehensive data audit is not just a procedural formality; it’s a strategic initiative to understand, categorize, and responsibly manage the pool data in their possession. 

2.Streamline Data Collection

GDPR excels the concept of data minimization. It translates into a significant change for OTAs – a move from exhaustive data collection to targeted, purpose-driven gathering. Simplifying and refining data collection processes ensures compliance without compromising operational efficiency. 

3.Consent as a Conversation

In the GDPR rulebook, consent is not a checkbox; it’s a subtle conversation between the OTA and the user. Revamping consent mechanisms involves adopting user-friendly language and ensuring that individuals clearly understand how their data will be used. 

4.Cybersecurity Enhancement

Cybersecurity is not an option in a time marked by data breaches; it’s necessary. OTAs must invest in cybersecurity, creating digital walls that safeguard customer data against evolving threats. 

5.The Role of a Data Protection Officer (DPO)

Appointing a Data Protection Officer is not just a regulatory requirement; it’s a strategic move. A qualified DPO becomes the guardian of compliance, ensuring that the OTA meets regulatory standards and evolves as a proactive custodian of customer data. 

6.Protocols for Rights

GDPR provides specific rights to data subjects. OTAs must establish streamlined protocols for responding to requests, transforming compliance from a bureaucratic process into a customer-centric engagement. 

7.Continuous Training

Compliance is not a one-time feat but a continuous journey. Regular training programs empower OTA employees to arm themselves against evolving data protection threats. 

As we mentioned earlier, GDPR compliance is not a checkbox; it’s a pledge to customer data security. It’s an opportunity for OTAs to redefine their narrative, positioning themselves as compliant entities and pioneers in ethical data management. Beyond mitigating risks, GDPR compliance becomes a strategic necessity, which opens doors for OTAs to establish themselves as customer-first businesses that value their trust.  

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