Big Data and Travel: A Risky, Personalized Travel Experience

By Valentina La Noce

Personalization: One of the most critical pieces of the increasingly complicated customer service puzzle. Today’s consumer interacts with innumerable touch-points throughout their entire journey. Not only do consumers expect a seamless and consistent experience, but also one that is completely customized to their needs and preferences. 

In the travel and hospitality industry, understanding every travelers’ needs and requirements is absolutely vital to maintain a competitive advantage and foster brand loyalty. In order for the industry to make strategic, tactical decisions and meet the demands of consumers, they need data…as much of your personal data as possible, that is.

Airlines and hotels have the opportunity to leverage emerging technologies to make sense of the immense quantities of both structured and unstructured data they gather each and every day. Developing rich customer personas and processing the data into meaningful, insightful information enables companies to gain a deep understanding into consumer motivations and preferences. In short, big data is the root of disruption across the industry.

Data insights also enable companies to create tailored content, offers and recommendations across an omnichannel platform - a personalized and proactive experience for every traveler. In fact, 88% of consumers are more inclined to stay loyal to a brand that offers relevant information and offers, and almost 50% are willing to pay a premium for such a personalized experience, according to a Deloitte Consumer Review report. This tells us that travelers are not solely focused on the lowest cost option, but are keen to experience a bespoke and memorable journey. 

Security Risk and Big Data Go Hand-in-Hand

But how much data exactly are consumers willing to provide for a seamless and convenient travel experience? Unfortunately, the more data a company collects about its consumers, the more attractive it is for cybercriminals and hackers. In fact, the travel and hospitality sector is ranked as the industry with the second-highest number of data breaches

According to a PWC Consumer Intelligence Report, 69% of consumers believe that companies are vulnerable to cyberattacks, and across the board are increasingly concerned about the security of emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and digital payments. In addition to worries about cybersecurity and the potential for data breaches, only 25% of consumers believe that the data they share with companies is handled responsibly. Consumers are also very skeptical about the benefits of sharing their personal data, with only 15% who believe it is utilized to improve or enhance their life

Currently, most large-scale companies are tied to their investments in legacy systems, making them exceedingly resistant to technological disruption and prone to overlook state-of-the-art solutions for cybersecurity. Malware attacks are becoming increasingly difficult to detect, and protecting against such attacks is one of the biggest challenges for companies in today’s world. Let’s take a look at the Marriott International cyberattack that occurred in late 2018, the largest data breach of the year. Almost 400 million guest profiles were hacked, including over 5 million unencrypted passport numbers and almost 9 million unique payment card numbers, according to CSO Online. The case underlines the importance of enhanced and up-to-date cybersecurity, security audits and appropriate data storage, particularly in cases where a company acquires new systems and infrastructures.

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel! With increasingly stringent data regulations and apprehensive consumers, companies have started to leverage data to make your personal information even more secure. Examples include voice recognition and biometric facial recognition technologies. These technologies not only promise the safekeeping of your personal information, but also a hassle-free, speedier experience. 

Corporations in the travel and hospitality industry must place cybersecurity as one of their top priorities. If a hack or negative event is to occur, the reputation of the company will instantly suffer, leading to a decrease in sales and customer retention and loyalty. The key is to place the traveler at the center of operations in order to gain their trust through a safe, personalized experience that meets their individual tastes and requirements.


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