BTTS: ‘Don’t panic’ about data protection rules

Group travel organisers need to make ‘genuine attempts’ to comply with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), delegates heard at the British Tourism and Travel Show.

Speaking during a debate hosted by the Association of Group Travel Organisers, Luke Golding, Travlaw associate, outlined the key points of the rules, which come into force on May 25, 2018.

“Don’t panic – the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) will refer to the size of your organisation to see what you need to do to comply,” he said.

“There has been a load of scaremongering in the press, such as fines of €20 million, but that does not mean that the second you do anything wrong, you will get fined.

“The ICO wants you to see you are making genuine attempt to comply.”

He said the European Union directive applies to processing personal data – such as names and phone numbers – in computers and databases; or filing systems for hard copy.

It covers how and why personal details are collected and stored, and how organisations are implementing systems that meet GDPR standards.

He urged companies to designate a person or group to lead the GDPR effort within a company, and to update data and privacy policies.

“Yes, it is a challenge but hopefully customers will have faith in your data processing practices, and the ICO website has wealth of information,” he advised GTOs.

In answer to a question from the floor, he cautioned GTOs about handing over contact details from fam trip participants to the host of the trip.

“If you transfer data to separate company…you might be able to justify it, if it is not a marketing message – but that act of transferring data from you to the host will be have to looked at very carefully.”

• Wendy Hartley-Scarff, the new chief executive of Agto, hosted the debate, which took place on the second day of BTTS.

She highlighted how important the tourism industry is to the UK, saying: “We are massive, worth £127 billion, the third largest employer and fifth largest industry.

“We are a powerhouse, driving revenue and employment, so I find it hard to understand why our government does not support us as we wish.

“Regulations seem to hinder rather than help and we need more support.”

• Steve Reed, founder of Steve Reed Tourism, urged GTOs to register with organisations to show that they are active tour organisers.

“It is very important for exhibitors, attractions and hotels to target active GTOs,” he told the debate.