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Hotels and airlines are going to new lengths to personalize the travel experience of their most important customers, frequent travelers; however, receiving and storing their personal preferences creates a high-risk situation for both parties.

A quarter of frequent American travelers surveyed by Deloitte’s Travel, Hospitality, and Leisure Practice said that they would be less likely to use a company should any breach of loyalty data occur.

Although concerned, consumers today underestimate the broader risks involved in a loyalty data security breach and are not taking steps to adequately protect themselves.

The report found that only 21 percent of respondents change their passwords at least once per quarter and that more than half, 53 percent, use the same password for other accounts.

Just under half of respondents, 41 percent, admit to having little or no knowledge at all about travel companies’ privacy and security policies.

A major security breach of a travel loyalty plan has yet to happen as such attacks usually target credit card numbers.

Charles Carrington, author of the study, argues that the damage could be greater given the nature of information available to travel companies including where a member is traveling and when their home is left unattended.

“Frequent travelers are often the most valuable customer segment for hotels and airlines,” explains Carrington in a statement.

“Companies that can persuade these customers to share detailed information about their interests, hobbies and preferences will create a highly valuable and continuous cycle. But if they fail to live up to their custodial responsibility to secure customer information, that bond can be shattered in an instant.”

Deloitte surveyed more than 1,000 Americans who stayed in a hotel for at least three weeks or flew at least 25,000 miles in the previous year.

Approximately 40 percent of such frequent travelers participate in four or more frequent flier programs and four or more hotel loyalty programs.

Despite their lack of proactive protection, awareness of security risks does impact the information they share with travel companies.

Frequent travelers are the most willing to share general travel preferences such a seating choice (93 percent) or food and drink preferences (74 percent). They are significantly less likely to share more personal information including hobbies (32 percent), geolocation (28 percent) and health records (7 percent).

Travel companies might be more likely to access such information if they clearly outline how it is used and protected. In order to increase personalization while decreasing risk for a security breach, both parties need take conscious steps to protect such information.

Photo Credit: Heirs can sometimes inherit and use miles and points from airline rewards credit cards for airline tickets and perks. Philip Taylor Philip Taylor / Flickr