Monday,  August 15, 2022  12:12 am

Cybersecurity and AI: How does Canada's travel industry measure up?

Cybersecurity and AI: How does Canada's travel industry measure up?
Novipro/Léger's latest survey reveals that only half of Canada’s travel and tourism businesses are prepared for cybersecurity attacks.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Collecting customer data and personal information is a common practice in today’s travel industry, but just how prepared are businesses if that sensitive data was ever breached?

According to the results of a 2019 survey conducted by Novipro/Léger, only half of Canada’s travel and tourism businesses have a succession plan in place if a cybersecurity attack were to occur.

The report also reveals that few travel companies in Canada would be comfortable contacting their clients if they were a victim of a cyberattack.  

The study, Novipro/Léger’s third annual, was conducted to examine the evolution of cybersecurity and rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in Canadian business. 

A comprehensive survey was taken by 476 Canadian decision-makers working in medium and large-sized organizations with at least 100 employees, across various sectors.

The findings reveal that cybersecurity has jumped in importance for business leaders. In a similar 2016 survey, 11 per cent of respondents said security was an issue, compared to 39 per cent today, the report states. 

Would you notify your clients of a cyberattack?

Companies today hold vast amounts of customer data, yet only 49 per cent of respondents said they would communicate, in writing, to their customers in the event of a computer breach, the study reveals.

How does Canada’s travel and tourism industry fare? According to survey results, only 33 per cent of Canadian travel businesses would send a written note to their client if their personal data was breached as a result of a cyberattack. 

This is particularly alarming in light of Canada's recent Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which requires Canadian companies to notify their customers in the event of a breach.

“What we can say is that the travel industry is sensitive to reputation,” Yves Paquette, co-founder, president and CEO at Novipro, told PAX in a recent interview.

From credit card numbers to passport information, travel companies collect customer data on a routine basis, and admitting to a security breach could potentially put a company’s reputation on the line. 

Yves Paquette, co-founder, president and CEO at Novipro, a Montreal-based IT solutions firm.

What’s more is that only 50 per cent of travel companies in Canada have a plan in place to actually deal with cybersecurity attacks, the survey reveals.

“People are willing to talk about it when they already have a solution,” Paquette said. “When you don’t have a solution, you need to make an investment.”

In a surprising twist, the survey reveals that many Canadian travel, tourism and recreation companies have yet to actually experience a computer breach.

This sings a different tune compared to last November when Marriott International acknowledged that an “unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information” belonging to roughly 500 million customers on its Starwood reservations system.

“The more data you have, the more you need to take care of security,” Paquette said, advising that businesses should audit their IT departments, annually, regardless of how up-to-date their infrastructure is. “Hackers are always working to find new breaches.”

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

What seemed like a distant idea years ago, AI is generating more enthusiasm as new technologies materialize. 

Last December, WestJet, for example, announced a plan to remodel its digital platforms with artificial intelligence  playing a key part in the overhaul. 

Novipro/Léger's survey reveals that AI adoption is on the rise amongst mid to large-sized companies, with more than one-third (34 per cent) of Canadian businesses planning to invest in artificial intelligence within the next two years.

“Hackers are always working to find new breaches,

The study shows that Canada’s interest in artificial intelligence varies between province – nearly one out of every two businesses (48 per cent percent) in Atlantic Canada plan to invest in AI; Quebec and British Columbia (both 42 per cent) rank second; Ontario (35 per cent) ranks last.  

Within Canada’s travel and tourism sector, one in three (33 per cent) of businesses plan to invest in AI over the next two years, the survey states.

“The survey tells us that people are willing to transform,” Paquette told PAX. “They know that technology is something they will have to look at.”

Increasing productivity and improving the customer experience are the travel industry’s top two reasons for investing in AI, the study states.

However, many Canadian travel companies do not believe that AI has already begun to transform their business or industry. Half of them believe that the AI will touch them in a year or two, while the other half think that this transformation will be done in six or 10 years, the survey notes.

Novipro is a Canadian IT solutions firm based in Montreal, Quebec. To read Novipro/Léger’s third annual IT Portrait of Canadian Businesses survey, click here