EyeforTravel's San Francisco Summit 2017

April 2017, San Francisco

Data, data and more data: travel’s big driver in 2017

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On Day One of the Atlanta Summit last week, senior executives from Wyndham, Kimpton, Tauck, Delta Airlines and more, identified numerous ways to put data into action

Travel companies, big and small, are using data to attract more guests to their brands and drive additional revenue. But how do you put that data into action across your marketing and business strategies? That was the theme of Day One at EyeforTravel’s Smart Travel Data Summit North America, held in Atlanta last week. You can read the highlights from day 2 here.

As technology advances, bigger and better data is becoming available to the travel industry. Each business is on a journey to create new systems and adopt best practices. This has become crucial in an age where customers crave the best experiences.

As several data experts shared at the Summit, hospitality companies must know their guests and personalise their experience to survive. Or, somebody else will.

“Things have changed dramatically in the last two or three years,” PJ Abhishek, Senior Vice President of Revenue Management and Consumer Analytics for RCI/Wyndham Worldwide told the audience. “We are definitely in a very critical part of the journey.”

One of the biggest challenges to fully realising the power of data is that many organisations operate in silos, or with little collaboration

One of the biggest challenges to fully realising the power of data is that many organisations operate in silos, or with little collaboration.

Revenue managers and data analysts need to break down barriers and start partnering with all departments, from sales to marketing and operations.

3 high level strategies 

Kelly McGuire, vice president of advanced analytics for Wyndham Worldwide, offered three high-level strategies to put data into action.

  1. Develop a guiding philosophy for analytics and what it will accomplish 
    “Without good communication, your analytic strategy falls flat,” McGuire said. To address this, she suggests developing data that’s not just reactive, or measuring the past, but predictive, allowing a company to evolve and survive in the future. “As you become better at this, it enables a different kind of decision making in the organisation,” McGuire said.

  2. Make the data make sense 
    Her second point was that companies must explain their data with analogies and storytelling to make it relevant to workers.

  3. Make it accessible and actionable 
    Lastly, McGuire stressed that analytics should be described in business language and tied to an action.

Other insights came from Tauck, a luxury travel operator that opened doors in 1925.  Executives from the group shared how they had transitioned the company into a more data-driven organisation. Vinny Licht, CIO of Tauck, who joined the company 15 years ago, said: “What I saw then was legacy systems and obsolete technology. We had a lot of issues.”

So, around three years ago, Tauck decided to tackle the issue by bringing in new talent. Among the fresh blood were Jon Franco, director of revenue management and analytics and Sue Verrochi, IT business analytics manager. Speaking on Day One, they shared how they combined skills to bring revenue management, information technology and business analytics under the same umbrella.

“We walked into a world of multiple data sources and multiple delivery methods,” Verrochi told the audience. And with that came a whole host of barriers - from legacy thinking to high costs, inexperience and the perception that control would be lost.

Despite the obstacles, the team found success, creating a new executive dashboard, more advanced booking system and streamlining customer comments.

“The barriers are no longer what they once were,” Licht said. “We figured out our way as we went.”

Good karma  

Also speaking were executives from Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants who shared some innovative ways they use data to boost their guest experience — important for a company that operates more than 65 hotels and 75 restaurants! As its founder Bill Kimpton would say: “Evolution is the fun part.”

Heather Richer, vice president of revenue management and distribution for Kimpton, outlined the headwinds facing the hospitality industry.  Among these: the rising influence of third-party operators including everything from OpenTable to Expedia, the popularity of the so-called sharing economy, and additional supply entering the market.

“People are more willing to pay for experiences than things,” Richer said.

As such, Kimpton has focused its efforts on creating personalised experiences for its guests, knowing even what magazine or drink a person prefers. Data is shared across a property, often in real time, especially when there is a need to resolve conflicts.

Kimpton also rewards guests who promote its properties across social media. For example, a guest who tweets positively about one of its hotels or restaurants will earn Kimpton ‘karma’ points. It’s one of the company’s ‘surprise and delight’ techniques, said Donald O'Grady, Kimpton VP of technology, who knows “the value of those positive hits”.

To be successful as a company, we need to make sure our guest satisfaction is better than anybody else

Donald O'Grady, VP Technology, Kimpton

He continued: “For us, it’s a guest-driven culture… to be successful as a company, we need to make sure our guest satisfaction is better than anybody else.”

Other Day One highlights (videos and slides will soon be available) included:

  • Top data scientists sharing best practices related to data visualisation, including Alex Endert, a professor at Georgia Tech’s Visualisation Lab.

  • The latest ideas regarding harnessing new talent and improving analytic skill sets, with Delta Airlines Data Science Consultant Emmanuel Carrier saying that the new generation of revenue management analysts likely with have more advanced degrees and experience as technology gets more complex.

  • Marketing strategies to integrate revenue management into all aspects of an organisation from Olga Nielsen, director of marketing and distribution analytics for Choice Hotels.

  • And, strategies to get rid of silos within an organisation.

Read the highlights from Day 2 here.

Missed Atlanta? Why not join us at one of our upcoming events in San Francisco or London

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