Holiday data and where it can take us

Jean-Michel Franco discusses the role of data in enabling holiday operators to retain customers and gain a competitive advantage.

The travel industry is undergoing considerable change. According to research from Statista, international tourism has more than doubled in the last 20 years and customers now demand faster and more customised services.

With access to more travel information online, holiday-makers are always connected. They learned to be autonomous through self-service and real-time recommendations and want to make instant decisions while planning their travels. Travellers also enjoy the flexibility of making changes and receiving updates throughout their trip and being guided along their journeys, especially in the case of unplanned events.

Data in the wings

According to a recent survey conducted by Schofields, more than 40% of those under the age of 33 prioritise ‘Instagrammability’ when choosing their next holiday spot. In light of this, tour operators are under pressure to provide customers with as much digestible information as possible. At the same time, several online travel websites have evolved providing more options. Holiday-makers are applying the pressure on travel companies to seek out the best deals at the most affordable cost. Gone are the days when we book our holidays in a physical store, instead we are presented with a vast array of enticing options that can be purchased with the click of a button. This expectation is widespread within the industry, as operators continually battle to deliver better holidays for less. For UK customers the Internet has expanded the amount of choice for customers and has undoubtedly enabled customers to hand-pick their perfectly-crafted holidays.

>See also: What does technology mean for the future of business travel?

Highly customised and high-quality holiday experiences require meticulous personalisation, for which a great deal of data is required. Tour operators use data in a highly intelligent way to provide new levels of services with customers. Within just a few years the amount of data available to airlines, travel and booking operators has dramatically increased. According to The State of Data in Travel Survey 2017, 65% of travel businesses now have a dedicated data analysis team, with 75% of these businesses expecting to increase their data analytics budget this year. This utilisation of data is hugely important for travel operators, who learn to leverage data in an intelligent way to determine which next-generation services consumers will buy.

>See also: How self-service analytics is helping the travel industry take off …

One company succeeding at processing vast amounts of data is Air France-KLM, which manages 16 million exchanges on Facebook and three million on Twitter a year. Stored on a Big Data Platform, these vast quantities of data can be redistributed in real-time to various customer service points. Using data in this manner enables Air France-KLM to create more personalised emails for its customers, building trust and allowing the airline to offer value-added services. Air-France KLM is committed to adhering to the regulations concerning the privacy and data security of the users of their websites, mobile sites and mobile apps. All data collected through its website is processed in accordance with all local legislation and the terms laid out in GDPR. Additionally, Air France-KLM continues to innovate its 360-degree customer-centric approach with conversational robots on Facebook Messenger, which gives access to all travel information that a confused flyer might need at the tip of their fingertips. Data brings new high-value services to the customer. Think of lost items as an example. Losing items happens frequently while traveling, and it can be a particularly painful experience. Traditionally when you forget a personal item when leaving a place, the company brings it to the airport lost and found department. When you realize an item is lost, you might be a thousand miles away and do not even know where it took place. This requires significant effort to bring back your lost item to where you are. But what if the company calls you as soon as they find your lost item around your seat after you left the plane. What a pleasant experience, one that I had personally when you recover your item before you even realized you had lost it!

>See also: How technology will change your travel experience

Data on the move

Air France-KLM is not the only company to evolve its use of data in a more intelligent way making the entire experience easier and compelling for customers is vital to improving customer satisfaction and engagement, something that more and more travel companies are implementing.

Private sector French transport group, Keolis offers travellers multi-device services, which brings together all of the daily services a traveller needs: finding the route, buying the ticket and validating it. Keolis has implemented a customer data lake that promotes a 360-degree view of the customer, based on the information in “My account” and allows to generate precise usage statistics and thus analyse customer routes.

Being able to provide customers with the right information at the right time in the easiest possible format is simply expected given the sophistication of modern data management systems and the cloud. Travel operators are, therefore, required to operate innovatively in order to engage positively with its customers. Providing updates in real-time and creating a centralised system of data enables operators to create an accurate profile of its customers, and provide a holistic view of customer understanding and satisfaction.

>See also: The future of the online travel trade

Deeper relationships based on trust

If you are a frequent traveller, travel apps probably stand on top of your most frequently used mobile apps, and you are probably sharing of a lot of personal information with them such as payment information, passport ID, geo-localization, etc. Now that the GDPR regulation on data privacy came into effect, the challenge for travel companies is becoming clearer. They need to provide an always connected, personalized, high-value experience so that customers value direct relationships over integrators or industry disruptors. And this requires trust.

Not only do they need to comply with the continuously evolving data privacy regulations across the world, GDPR being the latest example, but they need to receive customer consent such as opt-in access to their social network profile or ability to track location in real time. This raises the bar for how companies take control of their big data, but also raises the potential benefits as we now understand how a connected customer can change the dynamics of the travel business.

>See also: How digital technology is transforming the airport experience …

Holidays for me and you

Data-driven services such as the examples above require a diverse array of data to be stored, processed, analysed and turned into insight which drives decision-making.

In years to come, we can only expect the holiday process to evolve from booking into fast, efficient, and enjoyable experience across the customer journey. To benefit from more intelligent management through the analysis of data, operators will need to become more aware of how data can affect their business. By understanding the customer more and using data in more intelligent ways, the holiday season will bring less stress and more happy memories.

We have entered the age of the now for travel and data management. The cloud has never been so important in the holiday booking process as operators look to bring together information from multiple data sets to deliver more personalised services to holidaymakers.

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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future

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Data Analysis