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With limitless data at our fingertips, the travel industry has officially entered the ‘age of experimentation’. Travel companies who want to stand out today must test new ideas and use data analytics to bring about innovation.

It is no longer enough to continue with the products and services that have been effective so far: innovation requires travel companies to imagine ways to do things differently, or do new things altogether. That is according to Amadeus’ latest study Defining the future of travel through intelligence.

Destinations use data to tap into the growing African middle class

The growing middle class in emerging markets such as Africa is driving growth in travel volumes and represents a huge opportunity for destinations across the world.

Understanding what motivates these travellers, the kinds of travel experiences they are looking for, and the other destinations that appeal to them, is essential for DMOs to respond with targeted marketing campaigns.

 Travel companies must move past getting people from A to B, and start thinking about collecting information to build a 360-degree view of the traveller. That way travel companies can create a tailored and memorable experience – right from the moment they are inspired to travel, to the time they return home from their trip.

Don’t look to the past. Act in real-time!

Traditionally destination marketing organisations (DMO) have never been able to look into the future, because they always received visitor numbers and other data after the year was finished. So DMOs always worked retrospectively, not forecasting.

“You might know that last year went well, but it doesn’t tell you much about this year. This limits the opportunities for innovation,” says Eduardo Santander, CEO at the European Travel Commission.

However, today, thanks to data analytics, the travel industry is no longer focused on the past, reviewing historical data and trying to match it up with future outcomes. The opportunities around data analytics revolve around using real-time data for real-time decision making.

“Travel intelligence tools can give DMOs insight into intention itself – not actual bookings, but knowing that a certain number of people are planning to visit a particular location. This will help DMOs become more proactive, rather than reactive, in understanding traveller needs,” says Santander.

Combining search and booking data with additional third-party data sources, such as weather data, oil price data (which affects air fares), user generated content or currency exchange rates could help further augment a DMO’s ability to predict traveller demand.

Sophisticated data analytics will also help DMOs understand which other destinations they are competing with for visitors, and what thy must do to ‘win’ the traveller.

Don’t shy away from data, use it to drive innovation!

 In this big data, machine-learning world, almost anything is possible. The rise of data may at first seem unnerving, but it provides the raw material for real innovation. Travel brands must encourage an openness and willingness to use the insights from this and experiment with new ideas and approaches. Disruptive ideas – though some will fail – will define the future travel experience.