The European Technology and Travel Services Association (ETTSA) launched in 2009 to promote the interests of global distribution systems and travel distributors to policy makers, consumer groups and other industry stakeholders. As ETTSA’s Secretary General, Christoph Klenner shared his views with us about the challenges of unleashing data to drive business and results.

Data has become the main currency in the relationship between suppliers and consumers of travel. It’s an incredibly important element for the future. Data will increasingly be used by suppliers to get a better understanding of the needs of a particular customer in order to then in turn customise the product or service to that customer and increase the ultimate consumer satisfaction.

 

I think using data to take decisions is in fact a natural tendency of human beings. That’s what we see from a consumer perspective when people are given the information that they really want on their smartphones. For example, when you travel and you are in a location and are given exactly the local information that you need, then you will utilise it, you will act on it and you will actually shape your purchasing decisions on the basis of that data. It’s just that we have to make sure that data is accessible, intelligible and understandable, and that it flows around with the right data protection measures in place.

I think using data to take decisions is in fact a natural tendency of human beings.

Christopher Klenner

We can all learn much from companies that really have a smart approach to data and a very solid underlying algorithm to make that data intelligible. For example, companies like Tripadvisor in the travel space are using your location-based data to give you the answer to questions you didn’t even know you were going to ask. Of course there’s a balance to be struck between giving a consumer or customer data and overloading them, because that has the adverse effect.

 

A problem in the past with data has been that suppliers or intermediaries have sat on their data. They have let the ownership of the data prevail over unleashing that data and using it to either make the process more efficient or to customise the product better to the customer. Once we unleash that, once we convince suppliers, travel agents and travel management companies to use the data as a currency, we’ll be much better able as a whole value chain to provide a better product to the end consumer.

 

It’s not technology that’s the problem. We have technology at our disposal to let data travel throughout the value chain at a very fast pace. We have the intelligence of technology to make something of that data, to validate that data and to make sure we understand what the data means. The real challenge is to convince and compel the different players in the value chain to start using and sharing the data. And that doesn’t need to be free; it can be at a cost because the data is a valuable commodity. But we need to build that trust between different parts of the value chain to really unleash the data and make it work.