Meet Chase. He’s a 42-year-old manufacturing executive who travels globally. In a given month, he might fly to Mexico City, Shanghai, and Toronto, and he tends to prefer staying at Westin hotels in those cities. He’s somewhat cost conscious, so he’s not big on booking first class airfare. But if a relatively inexpensive upgrade opportunity presented itself, he’d take it.

That’s not all we know about Chase’s travel tendencies, either.

Once a month, a member of Chase’s family joins him on one of his trips. His wife travels with him to Phoenix. His daughter has joined him on a trip to Germany. And his son tagged along the last time he traveled to New York City. On those trips, Chase and his family extended his business trip by two additional days and almost always booked a hotel room within walking distance to an art museum or theater.

Welcome to the world of modern travel booking

In many cases, agents and travel managers today have access to a veritable treasure trove of traveler information — historical booking data, traveler profile information, reservation browsing patterns, and much more. Collectively, this data paints a detailed picture about who a traveler is and what they care about, both of which make it much easier to craft travel experiences that feel custom-made.

There’s just one problem with this utopia: to reach it, agents and TMCs need access to all of the right data at the right time. And they also need tools that can convert all of that raw information into truly actionable insight.

Too often, these conditions aren’t in place.

Instead, data is siloed and stored across a variety of disparate back office systems that don’t communicate with each other (and certainly not in real time). As a result, travel agents are forced to operate with generic information that does little to empower exceptional customer experiences and drive new revenue opportunities.

The power of actionable analytics and dynamic profiling

This is the challenge of the future for the travel industry. Yes, traveler profile and booking data can tell us a lot about our customers. But this data is only truly useful to the travel professional if it’s sewn together in a way that tells a complete and meaningful story. This is the Single View of the Truth that provides granular detail about each traveler.

Thankfully, this is exactly what Big Data analytics platforms are designed to address.

These platforms aggregating data from a variety of sources — APIs, cached data, third-party apps, etc. — into one platform. This brings everything together into a holisitc view across data streams. These tools empower agencies and TMCs to:

  • Quickly determine what a customer needs at a given moment in time and make the right offer to them
  • Develop scoring models that segment travelers based on criteria like travel frequency, distance traveled and loyalty. Segmentation makes it easier for agents to understand a customer’s values and the experience they should be creating.
  • For business travel, this view helps travel consultants understand the specific policies of each corporate travel program. This ensures that business travelers book travel that’s within their policies, and highlights the value of the agent to the corporate client.

And those are just a small sample of how data benefits both the traveler and agency partners.

Beware this one important distinction

Now that the benefits are clear, there’s one thing to remember about Big Data: on its own, it’s virtually useless.

To borrow the classic needle-in-a-haystack analogy, with Big Data you can be assured that the needle you’re trying to find is there somewhere. Locating it in a reasonable timeframe, however, is nearly impossible without the right tools. And capturing data just because you can only makes finding the “right” data even more challenging. The more to sift through, the longer and more complex it becomes.

This is important to keep in mind as your organization begins to think about how it can use Big Data to create optimal travel experiences. Information is just one piece of the equation. The other, arguably bigger piece, is the tools that help you convert that information into meaningful reporting and actionable insight. When you have the latter, the potential to improve the customer experience (and drive revenue for your business) is virtually limitless.

Becky French, Sheryl Helt and Rebecca Robinson form a personalization dream team: Becky is the director for Sabre Profiles, personalization and preferencing solutions. Sheryl is the principal product manager for Sabre Profiles. Rebecca is the principal product marketing manager for Sabre Profiles.