Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 22 2013

The Risks and Rewards of Big Data

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

Big data is buzzing in every industry, and that buzz is very important for everyone in the meetings industry. If you aren’t familiar with what big data can do, it represents all the information that is collected on users’ online activities.

Thomas H. Davenport, a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, is the author of a new study commissioned by global travel technology company Amadeus. “At the Big Data Crossroads: turning towards smarter travel experiences” analyzes how some leading hospitality companies are using big data to reshape their operations.

“The travel industry stands at a big data crossroads today, with new technologies and techniques offering the potential to translate increasing volumes of data into higher profits and more efficient operations,” Davenport says. “Airlines, airports, hotels, rail companies and travel sellers need to ask themselves if they have a big data strategy in place, and if it will allow them to be at the forefront of this opportunity.”

SEE ALSO: Spend Less, Engage More: How Data Can Create More Opportunities for Your Meeting

The Inherent Risks

On one hand, tracking all of your customers’ or members’ activities can raise serious privacy concerns. Everyone from Facebook to the US government continues to deal with the sensitive issues surrounding privacy.

“How do you protect information?” Eric Ly, co-founder of LinkedIn and founder of Presdo, asked attendees at the PCMA Education Conference. “There’s always the risk that information can get into the wrong hands.”

In addition to concerns of safeguarding all that private information, Herve Couturier, head of research and development, Amadeus IT Group, says that big data also requires businesses to address challenges such as technology complexity and the need to hire data specialists to collect and sort through all the info.

The Rewards

However, if you can use that information in an appropriate manner, big data can pay off with big results, too.

“Big data can help to make travel more responsive and focused around traveler needs and preferences,” Herve Couturier, head of research and development, Amadeus IT Group, writes.

Think about all the data possibilities at a meeting, in a convention center or during a hotel stay. By using past online history to predict future preferences, your organization can do everything from suggest relevant educational sessions to offer location-based dietary recommendations in the convention center.

The payoff extends much further than providing a better experience for guests or attendees. Big data pays significant dividends internally, too. For example, consider two InterContinental Hotels in San Francisco who partnered with Stem, a big data energy management startup. With Stem’s ability to compile information related to weather, electricity rates, energy consumption and more, the two properties reduced their energy costs by approximately 10 - 15 percent.

Looking for more information on what all that big information can do for your members, your customers or your organization? Click here for a handy infographic from Amadeus.

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