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Science is officially sexy. Well, data science to be more precise. These days we have access to an overwhelming amount of data on travellers – but what should we be doing with it? The reality is that hidden beneath this tsunami of information are insights into where your customers come from, what they want, and how you can reach them.

In Africa, mobile devices are the main way of drawing this information – what many refer to as Big Data – with an expected 930 million mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2019, according to a study by Ericsson, and internet use expected to increase 20-fold over the same period. With this comes plenty of data on what people search for, and how they book and their travel schedules, to name just a few.

So how can the travel industry use this to improve their business?

Integrated view of passengers: From booking to check-in, boarding and car rental, travellers’ data goes through a multitude of different systems. Thanks to Big Data technologies, travel companies can integrate these and have a better picture of the entire travel cycle from beginning to end.

Personalised offers: Pay 3 Stay 4 in Mauritius, last-minute weekend getaways to Cape Town, out-of-season safari specials to Botswana. Our inboxes are inundated with special offers on a daily basis – and travellers feel just as overwhelmed. Data science can provide you with information on travellers’ preferences, booking history and social connections to tailor packages to fit in with what your customers want.

Optimise marketing efforts: Isn’t it frustrating when customers show an interest in your offer, only to turn away and book somewhere else? Agencies can use data analytics to optimise their marketing efforts to potential travellers, by putting out the right message at the right time.

Loyalty: Incentivise customer loyalty by offering bundled travel packages, along with personalised campaigns and offers – all enabled through the use of data science.

Level the playing field: Big isn’t necessarily better – data science means that small, local companies can use data technology to put out a range of special deals to be enjoyed at destinations around the world – from a guide promoting local market tours through the streets of Livingstone, to an authentic dinner at a vibey restaurant in Maputo.

Timely deals: Through mobile devices, airports can measure when they are most busy and offer timely and tailored deals.

Advance knowledge: Small business owners can discover who will be visiting their region, and when – tailoring their offer to those who will be there in the coming weeks and months.

Disruption recovery: Should things go wrong, from airport strikes to public transport shutdowns, businesses can respond and recover by making the best operations decisions that minimise the impact on travellers.

Optimising fleet resources: Airlines can improve capacity planning by forecasting – when are they busiest and when are they quiet? This allows them to streamline their fleet and save on costs.

Environmental impact: Traffic predictions also allow airports and airlines to react in real time to changes – minimising fuel consumption and benefitting the environment.