As travel returns to growth, Accenture’s Tuba Guclu looks at how data can play a part in the recovery.

There’s no denying that the pandemic has significantly changed how travel organizations drive transformation. After all, Travel’s return to growth is happening in an environment of limited investment possibilities and balance sheet constraints.

But here’s the good news.

Data and analytics is the ultimate compass for travel companies. It’s an area where they can evolve toward a target picture—and with some creativity and pragmatism—deliver outcomes and unlock hidden value to justify the investments. The travel leaders I talk to about data, analytics and applied intelligence topics are excited about the possibilities. Here are the top five questions I get from them about data in travel:

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1. Why are we so behind in data and analytics compared to other industries?

There’s an impression that the industry is significantly behind in using data and analytics. To be honest, I have a very different view. Data and analytics has a longstanding history in travel. Airline revenue management is one of the oldest and most complex applied analytics use cases. In hospitality, property allocation and dynamic workforce management is data intensive.

It’s the organizational silos that are limiting Travel’s return on data. As long as terabytes of data sit waiting to be put to good use, the value upside can’t be fully realized. And the most exciting value cases we see today apply across typical silos, and this is where our clients are struggling to adapt.

2.  Is it the right time to reinforce the data and analytics agenda?

Absolutely. There’s never been a better time. From new travel behaviors to government related changes, the pandemic has added layers of new complexity to an already volatile environment.

Applied intelligence in travel can help the industry cut through the complexity—to recover revenue streams and discover new ones. All while optimizing operations, improving disruption management and addressing demands. Plus, the technology foundations that were sometimes not affordable in the past can now be procured dynamically on an as-needed basis.

3. How do I make the case for data and analytics to management?

As a wise man said once, there’s no such thing as a data and analytics project. It only makes sense to see data and analytics as foundational for the business strategy—something that is threaded through everything and never an afterthought. So, when making the case for data and analytics investments, I encourage people to think in terms of three dimensions:

  • Top-line impact. This is how can data and analytics can be used to uncover new or recover existing revenue.
  • Bottom-line impact. This is using applied intelligence to identify and capture efficiency improvements without negatively impacting customer or associate experience.
  • New priorities. This is using applied intelligence to drive new business models, potential partnerships, sustainability goals and other emerging priorities.

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In our experience, airlines can unlock as much as 4 to 6% pts EBIT improvement by better leveraging data and analytics, while hospitality companies can target 3 to 5% pts uplift. 

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4. What do we need to get started?

There are three key building blocks for getting started.

  • An enterprise intelligence target picture is a touchstone. It provides a clear view of the desired end state, which should be continually reevaluated to ensure that all incremental activities are aligned.
  • A data-driven mindset is more than a buzz word. Organizations obsessed with measuring and analyzing performance and testing all aspects of the customer value proposition are best positioned for success.
  • A scalable and flexible data infrastructure is a critical difference maker. Cloud makes the data and analytics agenda more successful and affordable.

5. What do we need to be aware of to be successful?

Drawing on my experience working with the travel industry on data and analytics initiatives over the years—and during this unprecedented period in the industry—I’ve developed a list of do’s and don’ts that I’m happy to share.

  • Do make sure you have an overall vision in line with your company’s strategy.
  • Do know where the value lies, continually measure and demonstrate it to your organization.
  • Do invest in people, culture and change management.
  • Don’t try to solve every problem at once; take an iterative approach.
  • Don’t be restricted by preconceived constraints—maximize, don’t optimize.
  • Don’t make it business versus technology dynamic. Make it an enterprise driven solution.

Because data and analytics is the compass

There’s so much to talk about around data and analytics in travel—especially right now. So in the coming months, we’ll continue to explore the topic, digging deeper into the opportunities, sharing interesting use cases and more lessons learned.

In the meantime, keep this in mind. To get started, have a clear vision of your big picture but begin with small increments to demonstrate value. Ensure that you understand what you have to do—and the value associated with it. Always challenge old ways of thinking and embrace collaboration in your organization and with partners. Act fast, learn from mistakes and move forward from there. It’s how you can bring new value to the business, associates and customers with data and analytics.

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Tuba Guclu

Managing Director – Travel

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