Accurate insights from vast quantities of data are increasingly difficult, but partnerships like the one between Skyscanner and ForwardKeys could be the answer. Sally White reports

Access to the data from as many as 70 million international travel bookings a day gives quite an insight into industry trends. Just what industry players need as the entrance of mega-international tech groups and the adoption of social media make for cutthroat conditions!  

So, while predictions flow thick and fast in the industry, the analytics tool that travel tech entrepreneur Olivier Jager set up seven years ago with ForwardKeys is attracting a wide range of partners.The Spanish-based company focuses on big data and business intelligence for the travel industry, drawn from anonymised and aggregated global air reservation information.

The latest partner is metasearch group Skyscanner. The group’s combined data-gathering resources will enable ForwardKeys to offer a new data service on two macro traveller trends —‘travel willingness’ and ‘catchment area’—which Skyscanner captures as part of its Travel Insight platform. Skyscanner itself has a vast resource to bring to the match, with its millions of bookings and 1,200 partners.

With the combining of our two datasets we are getting one step closer to a 100% model

ForwardKeys co-founder and CEO Olivier Jager said: “With the combining of our two datasets we are getting one step closer to a 100% model. The more information we can cross-reference, the better image we can create of tomorrow’s travellers – and that will make us more useful to airports, retailers, hoteliers, national tourist offices and anyone else selling goods and services to travellers.”

ForwardKeys now plans to launch analytics to tackle new areas such as:

Leakage areas – to highlight where an airport is losing business to a competitor and how they might gain greater market share

Marketing and merchandising opportunities – analysing the geographic make-up of the future footfall to a destination to inform regional marketing strategy investments

Useful insights

Insights that ForwardKeys has supplied in the past range from a warning that Prince Harry and Megan Markel’s nuptials showed no signs of delivering a boost to UK tourism, to one that Chinese visitor numbers in the UK were falling fast.

On the latter it’s noted that that Chinese arrivals into Britain from January to April this year registered zero growth on the same period in 2017, while visits to Europe as a whole increased by 9.5%. It forecasts that Chinese visits to the UK will decrease by 5.7% in the second quarter of this year with London experiencing a greater drop of 10.1%, while other popular destination cities, including Paris, Rome, Amsterdam and Barcelona, will all register positive growth.

Another market which received one of its warnings is the US where, according to ForwardKeys, there is “substantial underperformance”. However, it was quick to ascribe this to weather or currency moves (as it was for the UK), with both countries becoming more expensive for many international travellers as their currencies rose.  

Online travel… ‘an industry which is largely built on computer-based transactions which generate vast quantities of data daily, providing huge insights on current and future trends’

In a press conference a few weeks ago Jager said: “In the period between Donald Trump announcing his first travel ban and the federal judge’s initial temporary blockage, bookings for inbound travel to the USA fell 6.5%, a phenomenon which has since been named the Trump Slump.

“In the 15-month period between that first announcement and now, inbound travel to the USA was 1.4% down while global international travel grew 5% on the equivalent period a year earlier.

“Looking ahead for the coming three months, flight bookings to the USA are 2.9% ahead of the equivalent period the year before. However, flight bookings globally over the same period are 5.9% ahead, so one has to conclude that since announcing the first travel ban, the USA has underperformed in the context of robust global travel demand.”

Watching the impact of the football World Cup, it found most fans were taking indirect flights and the major hub airports for the Russia-based games were led by Dubai, with forward bookings to Russia 202% up on the equivalent period last year. Others include Paris, where Russia bookings are 164% ahead, followed by London Heathrow (236%), Amsterdam (92%) and Frankfurt (49%).

The first major partner for ForwardKeys was Amadeus, which it launched with in 2010. Since then Jager has added partnerships with others including Paris-based JMG-Research, Germany’s consumer market intelligence group GfK.

It was a broad background at companies including AOL, Amadeus, PhoCusWright, Market Metrix and TravelCLICK that propelled Jager to make the leap with ForwardKeys. What he saw, right from the outset, was that online travel was “an industry which is largely built on computer-based transactions which generate vast quantities of data daily, providing huge insights on current and future trends”.

EyeforTravel North America 2018

October 2018, Las Vegas

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