Corporate Travel Makes Big Gains with Big Data

With almost 40% of all tour and activity bookings being made online, companies with an online presence are at an advantage in today’s travel industry. However, just having a presence isn’t enough. Companies also need to know their consumers — particularly, the online ones. According to findings published this year, 67% of smartphone users said they were more likely to purchase from a business’s mobile-friendly site, while 61% said they’d most likely leave a site that wasn’t optimized for mobile. Furthermore, 74% of people said that “If a site works well on a mobile phone I am more likely to return to it in the future.” Big data and AI can help companies ensure that consumers get the best online experience they can get, and we can show you how.

The big hype around big data – and why it’s not just all talk

When it comes to data, size doesn’t matter; purpose does. While big data undoubtedly encompasses large amounts of data, it’s the way big data is now used by companies to help predict consumer behavior that makes it such a valuable tool. According to a survey done by Harvard Business Review, Fortune 1000 executives reported for “the first time a near majority – 48.4% — report that their firms are achieving measurable results from their big data investments, with 80.7% of executives characterizing their big data investments as ‘successful.’

Some of the top-listed reasons company executives say they utilize big data are not only to cut costs, but also to deliberately re-invent the way they do business by finding new innovation avenues. However, only 50% of executives stated that they’re using big data to transform their business for the future. It is a wonder why more of them don’t try to do so, especially seeing how first-movers within an industry are at an advantage compared to their competitors. However, these statistics don’t just apply to big companies, small companies can also reap the benefits of using big data and AI.

(Read more: Small Businesses Can Bridge the Budget Gap with Travel Analytics)

With the race to innovate getting underway, big data can have a big influence on a company’s success, and the sooner companies can integrate using big data and AI to optimize the way they work, the better.

Synergizing your company with big data and AI

There’s this saying that goes like “work smarter, not harder,” and companies looking to streamline their processes should consider putting big data and AI to work. It seems like a logical decision, seeing as big data is too large for traditional data applications to handle, making modern AI perfect the job. The processing capabilities of AI and machine learning on average is 30 seconds (we’re called 30SecondsToFly for a reason!), and is hundreds of times faster than that a human’s, which averages anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. Also, as the data grows, so do the capabilities of the AI used to analyze it.

However, processing times aren’t the only benefit to using big data and AI. An AI’s decision-making skills seem to fare better than its human counterpart when it comes to operating on a large scale. Time and again, we hear how human error can cause big issues for customers. For a solo traveler on a casual holiday, a mass flight cancellation due to human error causes a headache, a minor inconvenience in the big scheme of things – but for companies needing their employees to travel on a set schedule, the consequences are much worse. Using AI can reduce the amount of errors caused, and hopefully the amount of headaches felt by customers, including business personnel.

(Read more: Artificial Intelligence: The End of Cognitive Biases)

While there are certainly merits to using big data and AI, there are fears that they will both grow to a point at which us humans can no longer compete or control it, but those concerns should be the least of our worries.

Big data & AI aren’t the latest sci-fi thriller, but there are real concerns involved

Contrary to what Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak are saying about AI taking over the world, unless we create a bonafide strong AI, those fears can be safely put to rest. However, that does not mean that big data and AI are completely safe. Just like any other tool, they can be used for both good and bad. On the bad side of things, issues regarding privacy are some of the utmost concerns when discussing the use of big data.

We’ve all done it – clicked “OK” without a second thought when we visit a website and it asked us to accept cookies. However, such a mindless task can have dire consequences if the cookies we agree to let onto our devices are used for big data gathering purposes other than optimizing businesses and harm users instead. Just because companies can use cookies to build their big data stash to get customer analytics, it doesn’t mean that those preying on security vulnerabilities don’t have access to that data as well by hijacking those very same cookies. In research published in 2012, researchers found they could predict someone’s whereabouts ”with high accuracy, even years into the future” just through voluntary tracking cookies provided by online users – the same cookies that you click “OK” to accept.

The purpose of this article isn’t to make you paranoid every time to visit a website though. Rather, as they say, knowing is half the battle, and knowing how big data can pose a potential security risk both for consumers and companies can help both do safer practices when doing online activities, such as booking travel plans.

How others made gains with big data & AI and what you can do

Companies developed several ways to make big data and AI to work for them, from having smart recommendation engines to suggest add-ons for your travel itinerary to forecasting hotel and flight prices to offer you the best deals at the best times. There is one development hitting the travel industry that combines all these perks into one convenient package for companies to use to make planning their itineraries the easiest of procedures – artificially intelligent travel bots.

(Read more: Chatbots: What They Are, and Where They’re Headed)

Claire, as your personalized digital travel assistant, is one of those travel bots developed by 30SecondsToFly. For companies looking to get the most out of their travel-planning experience, Claire utilizes the best of both big data and AI to bring you optimized itineraries that makes sure your bookings are policy compliant. Claire is able to do this by analyzing big data from other customers trying to book similar flights and is uses her AI programming to find you the best deal possible. On top of that, Claire also offers travel managers a way to track their employees’ travels (not in the hijacking cookie kind of way) through reports that help them make the best decisions possible regarding travel, reducing the element of human error. For the small to medium business owner, Claire gives them an edge in travel analytics so they can focus on the issues that really matter, like trying to win the innovation race.

Big data is constantly growing, and with it, so do opportunities for your company to grow. By utilizing the increasing wealth of data on potential consumers, companies can help better understand their users’ needs and wants. Also, with the increasing use of AI within the travel industry, the whole entire process, for both companies and users, is becoming easier and easier. Soon, full personalized travel itineraries suggested by digital assistants like Claire will no longer be science-fiction.

April Lat

April holds a Master’s in Public Policy and Human Development from the United Nations University and wrote her dissertation on Intellectual Property Policies for Artificial Intelligence. As a public policy consultant, she specializes in science, technology, innovation policy, and international affairs. Despite her namesake, she was not born in April.

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