Is travel at a do or die moment in big data?

While there might already be fatigue at the overuse of the term ‘big data’ now is the time to act if a report from Amadeus is to be believed.

The study, penned by Thomas Davenport, a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, who sees big data as the ‘biggest opportunity in a generation for travel businesses’.

Interesting to note that Amadeus is already acting with the development of a travel intelligence engine alluded to by Pascal Clement, head of travel intelligence, at the company’s Airline eCommerce and Mobile conference earlier this month.

“It’s a platform that will work for you and do for you the part that we all have to do. We already work with similar types of data – Amadeus data, customer data, industry data – and we want to move away from who owns the data to how do we get the value of all this data.”

In the Big Data report, Davenport sets out the benefits of harnessing big data – better decision making, greater product innovation and stronger customer relationships and says it is time for companies to embrace unstructured data, use it to make decisions and take action in real-time.

The report also recognises the challenges in taking advantage of the volumes of information companies have at their fingertips:

  • creating an integrating data source
  • working in a hybrid technology environment – we all know how many disparate systems exist out there and how complex it can be to get them to talk to each other
  • overcoming data skills shortage – getting the full benefit of big data will require high-level human resources according to the report
  • maintaining a competitive advantage – if all travel companies get good at analyzing the data, where will its value lie?

There are of course other challenges not mentioned in the report, cost is one (although the report does point out that many big data technologies are free or inexpensive,) and cooperation (sharing) between interested parties is another and these elements were highlighted in another recent study.

Davenport concludes with key recommendations for the travel industry which he says needs, as a minimum, to be researching big data and it’s likely potential and what competitors and customers are doing now. Other recommendations include:

  • strategise about big data – companies need to look at what is happening with it and how they can get involved, where it can be integrated in the business in terms of accessing better data and better decision making
  • don’t just explore it – change processes, decision making process, corporate culture, employee skills
  • start assembling big data skills – internally and externally
  • work with partners – on this Davenport says:

“The travel needs of today’s customers are intermodal, international and interactive. No single travel provider is likely to meet any customer’s needs for a seamless experience.”

The study includes input from a range of cross-sector travel companies including Air France-KLM, Eurostar, Facebook, Kayak, Marriott and Munich Airport.

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