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Fishing for Data in a Digitalized Tourism Industry

October 22, 2014 No Comments

Featured article by Yves de Montcheuil

Among the most digitalized industries, travel and hospitality is changing fast. Travel agents, airlines, airports, hotel chains – the entire industry is fishing for value in a seemingly-unlimited ocean of data.

William is happy. After a busy year, he is about to leave on a well-deserved vacation. His travel plans are getting refined: he has received several customized itineraries, based on his past trips and his online research – chiefly, recommendations and ratings from other travellers. Still, William feels he needs expert advice and calls his travel agent, who, having access to his purchase and browsing history, is able to streamline the entire reservation process.

In the weeks leading to his trip, William gets customized reminders for his visa and health requirements, but also tailored offers for local activities: deep sea fishing, a desert trek, and a kite-surfing discovery trip. These offers are targeted for his “segment of one”: based on his age, family situation, purchase history, hobbies, income – but also on the knowledge that William has a medical condition that prevents him from scuba-diving: in this case why bother him with poorly-suited suggestions?

Headed to the airport, William requests a Uber on his smartphone – the driver is immediately geo-localized and William can follow his approach on the map. The airport is busy on this holiday. Passenger flows and staffing needs are managed dynamically through predictions based on data points collected from sensors and airlines reservation systems, and adjusted in real time for air traffic control delays, weather conditions, and more.

Upon presentation of William’s electronic boarding pass at the check-in counter, RFID tags embedded in his luggage get programmed to the correct destination – (almost) a guarantee that bags won’t show up on the wrong continent. And once onboard his plane, William uses the airline’s mobile app to track the flight path, order a taxi or check highlights of his destination. Of course, his online browsing generates more profiling information, but it’s small data compared to the terabytes of logs the plane’s onboard sensors are producing – a giant leap compared to the “black box” Flight Data Recorders of the previous decades. This data is used to optimize flight paths and fuel usage, but also for predictive maintenance. The airline is even able to monetize some of it in real-time, for example en-route weather conditions.

Arriving at his resort, William is presented with a digital wristband which opens his room, enables access to the gym, restaurants, sports, etc. It is also used to charge any extra to his account. Connected to an app on his smartphone, the wristband enables a wealth of services such as tennis court reservation, spa appointments, confirmation of his fishing expedition, room service, chatting with other clients, etc. And every morning, William gets a personalized message with his program for the day, and personal suggestions such as: “William, since you enjoy tennis, we thought you might want to try out squash. We have a partner for you, if you are interested.”

Two weeks later, back home, William will write up his review of the resort, share pictures on social networks, and fill out customer satisfaction surveys. All the data his trip generated, from itinerary selection to its consumption, will have augmented the knowledge base of the companies who served him. In return, they will be able to offer him better-suited services.

One last thing… William did indeed enjoy squash! And he is about to receive a special discount offer from a squash club located just a few minutes away from his office.


Yves de Montcheuil is a recognized authority on digital business trends and information management. Former VP Marketing of Talend and strategic advisor for digital companies, Yves holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science and has 20 years of experience in software product management, product marketing and corporate marketing. He is also a presenter, author, blogger, social media enthusiast, and can be followed on Twitter: @ydemontcheuil.

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