How Big Data is Transforming the Tourism Industry

Published Jan-26-20

Gathering and analyzing data to increase attendance at a major sporting event in Abu Dhabi.

Department of Culture and Tourism, United Arab Emirates

The Story:

How Big Data is Transforming the Tourism Industry Tourism is just one of many industries leveraging big data and big data analytics, taking advantage of the available and exponential growth of digital information. From travel agents and hotels to airlines and travel-focused websites, big data is being used by travel companies all over the world. It has fast become the standard way of doing things.

For example, big data helps hotel owners to spot trends in customers' opinions, and in doing so they’re learning about what they're doing right and what they're not. To discover an accurate picture, data is harvested from reviews posted on websites and social media forums. Fortunately, travel is an industry where consumers are not shy about voicing their options.

Boosting Revenues

One of the most effective uses of big data in the travel industry is leverage it to maximize financial results. Data such as past and current bookings, overall occupancy rates and room revenue can be combined with information such as public holidays and local events to anticipate demand. Consequently, hotel companies can increase prices when they know there are going to be a lot of guests and offer discounts and other inducements in times of low demand.

Big data is also being used to improve the customer experience. Travel bookings is one area making use of chatbots, machine learning algorithms powered by artificial intelligence that learn from data and their interactions with humans.

Another area where big data is proving to be a win-win for companies and consumers is flight fare and hotel price forecasting. Many people are looking for bargains and ways to save money, but it can take hours or days trawling through the web to find the best prices. Thanks to big data and artificial intelligence, websites and apps can alert users to cheap flights. Adding a tool like this to a travel website can be an effective way of drawing in new business. Apps can also be customized to the individual preferences of travelers.

One organization capitalizing on big data analytics is Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT). An example concerned the UFC 242, a mixed martial arts pay-per-view event held in the UAE's capital in September 2019.

The DCT gathered data from Ticketmaster and digital and PR campaigns to predict who was coming to the city, their income level, country and demographics. From this, they created four buyer personas, such as high-income buyer and family buyer personas.

Attracting Bigger Audiences

In a pilot project, DCT told nightlife operators that 60 percent of their customers would be from two countries and their income levels would be within such and such a range. With this information, they changed the artists for the UFC event to accommodate the audience better, and this resulted in a significant increase in bookings.
Saif Saeed Ghobash, undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, is unequivocal about the significant benefits of big data.

"We at the DCT — Abu Dhabi believe that the subject of data analytics is a fundamental pillar of our modus operandi. Data is the fuel that drives the various operating models as a key ingredient to achieving our aspirations," said Ghobash in an interview with Gulf News.

"We strongly believe that a tourism destination not adopting data and analytics as part of its work in this day and age is akin to a city running without electricity or fuel."

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