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Hoteliers, it’s time to stop relying on cookies to attract guests

This article first appeared in Hotel Management International Winter 2021 edition

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By Sandro Petterle

Google Chrome recently announced they will cease support for third-party cookie tracking in 2022, pledging no more extensions. Along with constraints imposed by other privacy regulations, hoteliers will soon find diminished third-party insights available. 

So, what’s next? 

Ireckonu CCO, Chi Chan, and Rufus Leonard CTO, Sandro Petterle, explore how first-party data – information collected directly from a company’s customers – is the gold standard, and why hoteliers need to shift their focus towards data they already own.

Why is now the time for hoteliers to focus on first-party data?

Sandro Petterle: Regulations like GDPR, ePrivacy Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act have sparked consumer privacy concerns well beyond their jurisdictions. Yielding to the pressure, 85% of the browser market will block third-party cookies in 2022, so first-party data will be the leading source of customer insight.

Chi Chan: Hoteliers needn’t look beyond their own organisation for solutions – and increased opportunities. Providing personal details is conditional for customers in our industry; the best hotels and brands know how to capture/leverage this data to inspire customers to return, and also the significance of doing so with discretion. It’s not too late to turn to this rich data for insights on attracting new customers.

What are your customers doing differently in response to changing privacy measures?

Chi Chan: Consumer privacy isn’t a new concept to our industry, so strong engagement and compliance is unsurprising. However, more thought must go into what comes next. Hoteliers should focus on setting themselves up to harness the trove of data they already have, to replace the insight they’ll lose.

Sandro Petterle: It’s important to remember end users have never been more conscious of handing over their details. Our clients have responded by focusing on delivering compelling, personalised, and transparent experiences that deliver value for end users.

What advice do you have for hotels in this new age of privacy-first marketing?

Chi Chan: Make it easy for guests to opt-in and enrich the information you’ve already captured, while setting their expectations for how you intend to use it. It takes years to build real trust, but it goes a long way when you give guests the opportunity to control and personalise their information.

Sandro Petterle: Once you’re regarded as trustworthy by showing customers you respect their privacy, you’ll have a stronger foundation for building truly meaningful experiences.

What should be a hotelier’s first move to properly collecting and storing first-party data? 

Chi Chan: Match, merge and cleanse the profiles in your customer database. Then follow privacy laws and store the data in a secure place, like a centralised customer data platform. That’s a critical step in harnessing truly reliable data.

Sandro Petterle: Once that framework is in place, you’ll need a constant stream of rich data coming in, so empower and incentivise your employees to capture this data at check-in and throughout the stay.

How would a stakeholder go about justifying the investment required? 

Sandro Petterle: The more data you own up front, the less you’ll need to rely on higher marketing spend in the long run. Plus, your organisation could be heavily fined for not following soon-to-be-tighter regulations. The investment far outweighs the risk!

Chi Chan: You’ll also have total control over how you leverage your data, making guests feel truly understood and valued. Investing in existing relationships is more cost-effective than spending to acquire new ones. Although you still need to invest in customer acquisition, by gaining insight into which guests like your hotels and why, you can apply laser focus to your marketing spend to attract more like them.


How can technology be used to personalise and enhance the guest experience?

Chi Chan:  A customer data platform is the key to connecting your systems and delighting your guests. If you manage your data cleanly and reliably, you’ll unlock more opportunities to personalise experiences that will keep them coming back.

Sandro Petterle: Customer data platforms will help you personalise, recommend, and A/B test across every channel. Think of it the way Netflix or Amazon personalises your dashboard based on your history. You’ll know your customer across every touchpoint, and they’ll know you’re prioritising their requirements. That’s how you build true one-to-one relationships.

About the author

As CTO at Rufus Leonard, Sandro takes lead across clients, harnessing technology to create extraordinary experiences that will improve your customers’ lives in meaningful ways. His ability to deliver efficiently robust, innovative cross-platform solutions has been critical to clients like Stagecoach, The Gym Group, Lloyd’s Register, The Share Centre, and London Business School.


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Sandro PetterleCTO



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