Big Data, the Next Challenge

La Provincia newspaper of Las Palmas interviewed me on the occasion of the Sixth Hotel Innovation Conference of “La Ruina Habitada” held from November 18 to 21, 2013 at Nautilus Lanzarote Hotel. 

Big Data is the next challenge of the tourism industry

How will customer Big Data analysis revolutionize tourism?

In the immediate future, there will be a change in attracting customers. There will be a difference between the traditional way of attracting a customer-colloquially, casting the fishing line-and how the customer is going to come in upcoming years. Big Data analytics will profoundly change distribution channels because the way of attracting customers will be precisely focused on knowing them. The more you know your customer, the more possibilities you will have to attract him or her to your business.

It will be a new challenge for the tourism industry.

You have to do a serious, costly, ambitious and very technological job of knowing the customer. The most foreseeable way is for this to be done through powerful Big Data analytics. Big Data will enable predictive models which, through tracking customer footprints, everyone and everything will be a sensor. It is predicted that there will be 212 billion connectors on the planet by the year 2020 that will be interrelated without cables through computers and data communication. In that ostentatious amount of data that are going to be managed, the management system will afford an unheard of knowledge of travelers’ movements thanks to data cross referencing. Distribution channels will gradually fall into the hands of purely technological companies that will be the only ones able to face enormous investments in developing Big Data analytics.

So what would be the specific task assigned to short-term tourism businesses?

The most effective way for the hotel industry to attract customers is through pampering, care and developing the product. The tourism business is nothing more than making travelers happy. Therefore, before dedicating effort toward selling beds, producing and channeling hotel, airplane and restaurant reservations or those of any other tourist sub-sector, what the tourism entrepreneur with a future should make it his or her priority to take care of the product, which should be consistent and innovative. That is the strategy deployed by the largest company on the planet, Apple, which has been fundamentally known for taking care of the product. The customer comes only if you have a unique product that is differentiated and overwhelmingly singular.

Innovating is not easy. Do you dare provide the key that will make it come true?

Innovation is not improving processes but rather changing them. Therefore, there is no pattern of innovation that can state that what I do to benefit my idea, product or company is better than another. Anything that I do differently and that contributes toward making my business more positive from a stance of financial efficiency or personal satisfaction of the experience engaged in or offered entails an innovation. Innovating is difficult, but it can be tackled from an angle of singularity. If people are all different, it is incomprehensible for products to be the same.

How would that innovation translate into revenue?

Innovation not only generates more revenue, it is capable of turning a small business, as Apple was ten years ago, into the leading company on the globe. Therefore, innovation is the main source of value. Hotel innovations have contributed immediate aspects to revenue and an example is the success of entrepreneur Abel Matutes Jr. after renovating a very old hotel in the most run-down part of Ibiza. He achieved an innovative product by differentiating that hotel. Innovation through exploiting social network resources, Ushuaia’s orientation toward music and the DJ scene has turned that hotel into the most expensive hotel in Spain during the peak season at 850 euros per night.

The debate about Big Data elicits both favorable and unfavorable opinions. Many citizens say they feel spied on when they surf Internet. Can you avoid being part of Big Data?

I am aware of that big debate that is arising out of the positive consequences and not so much about Big Data in the corporate venue. The scandal of the US NSA (National Security Agency) has brought consequences and created a huge debate. Many citizens say they feel spied on when they surf Internet and I think that they’re right. They should not only be aware of being spied on but rather that they in fact are. The obvious extrapolation is when we go out into the street, we’re already being spied on—not only to engage in work or play, but to be seen. It’s something that is inherent to being human. If you don’t want to be spied on, vanish from the technological map.

Sites like Tripadvisor are taking on increasingly more importance among those who decide on a hotel, restaurant or other services. Do users prefer other customers’ opinions as opposed to specialized guides?

It is without a doubt a big change that has occurred in the tourism industry. Tripadvisor, Booking, Trivago… are gathering the opinions of customers and non-customers or from the hoteliers themselves who battle each other with organized campaigns to give false opinions. All of that creates an order of prescription that modifies the value of perception and we see how travel guides that used to be printed are no longer sold. ♦

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