Big Data: From Theory to Practice

If you search for the term “Big Data Travel” on Google you get 841,000,000 results. Yes, that is 841Mn results. You need a big data solution just to figure out what all these links mean.
Much has been written and said about big data overall in the past 2-3 years, especially about big data in travel. There are dedicated tracks to big data at all travel-related conferences (e.g. the last PhocusWright conference and a ton of research on big data (e.g. hundreds of posts on the Tnooz website). Last but not least, don’t even get me started on all the companies in the travel industry talking about big data.
But what does this mean to us the travelers? Do we have more intelligent travel booking solutions? Are we saving time? Are we paying less? Are we, the people who get on planes and stay in hotel rooms week in and week out getting any significant value from all this big data talk? Unfortunately, the resounding answer is NO! Instead of real value we get a plethora of advertisements and recommendations that we don’t care for.
Having worked with big data for a number of years now I have learned that the best way to approach big data is to try to solve a real-life problem with it and not talk about its potential. Taking this bottoms up approach is the only way to guarantee that you are not just talking about the theory of big data but you are putting it to practice and coming up with a closed-loop, actionable solution that provides real value to travelers. As Christopher Lynch mentioned in his interview at the last PhocusWright conference (you can read a summary here:’s-the-Big-Deal-VIDEO.aspx), in theory there are many opportunities for deriving value from big data. To me the question is not “what is the potential value” but “what is the value today, and how does it help me as a traveler”?

Translating this into action means companies providing solutions based on big data need to stop trying to analyze everything about travel in order to improve the experience for a single traveler. They need to take a bottoms up approach and learn who the travelers are one-by-one so they can help each traveler. Trying to learn everything about everyone is like draining the ocean to save one person on a life boat (even if he has a Bengal tiger on the raft with him) instead of using technology to find him and see if he needs help.

Big data should be all about improving the traveler experience one traveler at a time. In order for this to happen, travel companies need to take a much more personalized approach to big data.
Travel (and for that matter any other service) should be all about ME (and me, and me, and me, you get the idea).



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