Big Data, the practice of gathering and analyzing vast amounts of data, may be at a crossroad in the travel industry.
Big Data is possible thanks to technology advances and the computing power required to input, store and analyze data. Rather than relying on small studies or customer feedback, companies are now able to view raw, unstructured data to detect consumer trends, behaviors, and the efficiency of supply chains.
According to an Amadeus study conducted by Harvard Business School professor Thomas H. Davenport, Big Data is likely to shape the future of travel, potentially offering benefits to both businesses and consumers.
Based on input offered by CIOs from companies including Cathay Pacific, Eurostar and Facebook, the study found that the benefits of Big Data include better decision-making, greater product and service innovation and stronger customer relationships through new approaches to customer management.
In addition, "pockets of innovation" using Big Data can be found today; from KAYAK's price flight forecasting model to Air France-KLM's use of Hadoop, and this trend is likely to continue.
Emerging technologies are considered key to the Big Data evolution; new database systems and emerging programing languages like Python, Pig and Hive are expected to allow more scope to harness and process raw data.
However, the study also warns that the effective deployment of Big Data is not without its challenges. The main problems are possible data fragmentation across multiple systems; the co-existence of both big data and traditional data management architectures; and recruiting employees able to tackle Big Data.
The researchers warn that the travel industry is at the "Big Data crossroads," and action has to be taken now to fully utilize the concept. Davenport commented:
"The travel industry stands at a big data crossroads today, with new technologies and techniques offering the potential to translate increasing volumes of data into higher profits and more efficient operations.
Some leading companies are pioneering the use of big data and already seeing a huge impact. Airlines, airports, hotels, rail companies and travel sellers need to ask themselves if they have a big data strategy in place, and if it will allow them to be at the forefront of this opportunity."
Image credit: Flickr