In the European Union, data protection law applies, and typically includes provisions along the lines:

Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.

Some hotels in the UK and in other countries in the EU nevertheless ask would-be guests to supply their passport numbers in order to confirm their bookings, even if the booking is only for a night or two, and even if the hotel is inexpensive (i.e. the cost of the accommodation is far short of the transaction amount that would trigger legitimate money-laundering concerns).

To me, a passport number seems grossly excessive in relation to that purpose, and in any case it seems wholly unwise to divulge one's passport number to any stranger or organisation unnecessarily, as doing so increases the risk of identity theft.

What recourse does a person have in the case where a hotel in the EU asks for a passport number in order to confirm a booking?

Can the person decline to supply the passport number but insist that the hotel nevertheless honours the reservation?

Should I have posted this to law.stackexchange.com instead?

  • 3
    What do you suppose the purpose is? Usually, hotels do not ask for passport numbers for their own needs but because they are required to do so by law. So getting a passport number is the purpose and ipso facto relevant and proportionate. My experience is that you can certainly book hotels without providing a passport number (e.g. with a credit card), certainly in the UK, but you will be asked to present some form of ID when checking in. Also, as far as I know, identity theft isn't such a serious problems in most EU countries. – Relaxed Nov 4 '15 at 17:26
  • 3
    UK specific - If you're "an alien", then a UK hotel or hostel is obliged to record your passport or ID card details under the ancient-but-still-in-force Immigration (Hotel Records) Order 1972. Normally they wouldn't do that until checkin though – Gagravarr Nov 5 '15 at 12:15
  • @Relaxed, I genuinely do not know what the purpose is. I don't see why a hotelier should be any more entitled to know a customer's passport number than a hairdresser or a greengrocer or a restaurateur should; which is to say, not at all. – user13727 Nov 5 '15 at 21:51
  • 2
    @sampablokuper The thing is that something can only be deemed adequate or excessive with respect to a specific purpose so you have to determine what the purpose is before even discussing the relevance (that's also implied by the quote you found). As I explained hotels are not entitled nor particularly interested in it, they are collecting it on behalf of the authorities because they have to. Incidentally, data protection laws are mostly about privacy, not identity theft, which only emerged as a concern recently. But I see your point, and I certainly agree that it's intrusive either way. – Relaxed Nov 5 '15 at 22:08
  • 3
    @mouviciel, the definition of "processed" in the context of data protection includes storage and doesn't care whether a computer is involved or not. – Peter Taylor Nov 6 '15 at 21:21

In some states, hotels are legally required to record the passport or ID card number of all guests. Asking during the reservation and not after arrival is not much more intrusive, unless the computer you're working from is compromised.

Edit: I don't have an exhaustive list, but here is one example (scroll down to section 21 a).

  • 3
    The computer you're working from, the computer you're communicating with, and all the network nodes in between. This is far riskier than just dhowing the physical document when checking in. On the other hand, the NSA probably already had your passport number. – phoog Nov 4 '15 at 18:05
  • And any systematic theft would target the hotel database, so it doesn't matter how the data was entered. – o.m. Nov 4 '15 at 21:12
  • @phoog yeah, I think it's safe to assume that governments can access information about government-issued documents... – user56reinstatemonica8 Nov 5 '15 at 11:01
  • 3
    @user568458 Even if such access would violate the law, or if the government in question is that of a different country? – phoog Nov 5 '15 at 14:15
  • 1
    @o.m. Please could you provide links/evidence for your answer, e.g. which states & which laws? Thanks! – user13727 Nov 5 '15 at 21:57

I am not a hotel operator, but something similar, an Airbnb host. Here is my experience with the local law. I am obligated to provide the guest's passport number, nationality and home address when I file my tax report.

It is really damaging to me because privacy-conscious persons prefer to do things the illegal way, with a hotel or operator who doesn't care to take these data (usually because they evade taxes by not filing these reports).

  • 4
    Where in Europe is this? – Roddy of the Frozen Peas May 14 '16 at 9:54
  • @J. Doe, thanks, that's really interesting to learn! Please can you provide a link to the statute that obliges you to do this? – user13727 May 14 '16 at 12:56
  • @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas Greece. – J. Doe May 16 '16 at 13:07
  • @sampablokuper I only consulted my accountant who showed me the proper way to file the reports through the tax service's website. I am not proficient in Greek Tax Law, so I am afraid I can't answer this accurately. The only thing I know is that the law changed in Government Gazette Issue 94A/2015. – J. Doe May 16 '16 at 13:09

In my experience (non EU, non UK citizen) I have only been asked for the passport during check-in, as this is my legitimate ID when I am traveling.

During reservation, I have only been asked for a credit card number (and billing address).

I would find it very odd to be asked for my passport information at the time of reservation.

In many parts of the world, hotels are required to keep this data on file, mostly for security purposes but increasingly for taxes and other data aggregation. In these scenarios the information used is anonymized - as it is only valuable in aggregate.

In some countries, they are required to keep the non-sanitized information for a certain number of days beyond the end of the reservation as required by the immigration authorities.

Source: consulted on such a project for a large multinational hotel operator.


Some hotels in the UK [...] nevertheless ask would-be guests to supply their passport numbers in order to confirm their bookings

What recourse does a person have in the case where a hotel in the EU asks for a passport number in order to confirm a booking?

You can go to another hotel. Source: I spend about 30 nights per year in UK hotels, and never bring my passport. The only ID I provide in a UK hotel is my credit card.

Other EU states might have more stringent requirements in line with local laws.

  • 2
    I've only once or twice been asked for it in the UK (once when the desk staff assumed I wasn't from the UK), but I'm often asked for it in other EU countries. I don't know for sure (hence comment not answer) but I believe it's something intended for international, not domestic, guests. – user56reinstatemonica8 Nov 5 '15 at 11:04
  • 3
    I believe that the Immigration (Hotel Records) Order 1972 requires UK hotels to record passport or ID card details for non UK/Ireland/Commonwealth citizens. So, you wouldn't need to show any ID, but a European or American friend travelling with you might well be asked – Gagravarr Nov 5 '15 at 12:08
  • 1
    @Gagravarr, surely EU law would require either that UK citizens are required to show identity documents or that all EU citizens are exempt? – Peter Taylor Nov 6 '15 at 21:29
  • @PeterTaylor I've seen a few people saying that the law isn't compatible with EU rules, and nothing saying it has been updated/fixed since the UK joined the the EU... Not sure I fancy being a test case over it though! – Gagravarr Nov 7 '15 at 13:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy