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“USA Megafam: Seven itineraries,

Apple, meanwhile, is giving its customers the convenience of logging on to different devices with one ID, and also emailing customers their receipts. Carlile said Sabre used big data to help agents, as the GDS can let agents know about what’s about to happen, in terms of bookings. “We show seasonality, demand and where there’s an opportunity for conversion. It’s all real-time, (because) that’s where we’re headed,” he added. “At the end of the day, the customer

O’Flanagan: much quicker sales reports

Surely it’s just common business sense? Not so, argued Graham Cook, managing director of Qubit. The big data phenomenon was only made possible due to the arrival of cloud computing. Cook, who previously worked at Google, said: “Now it’s about collecting everything, but the next stage will be about doing something with it.” Sabre’s Carlile said there were

always three “V”s involved with big data: Volume (“You can’t do much with big data – you just have to leave it; you

Carlile: big data is all about insight

can’t move it”); velocity (“How fast is it coming in? It’s fast, but you can’t miss any of it out”); and variety (“Is the data social media, text, numbers?”).

Emmanuel Marchal from analytics

firm Acuna said now, fortunately, there was a “new generation of disruption databases being built, all open source” that allow companies to store the data – and sometimes from as little as hundreds of pounds.

Doing big data well As well as Starbucks, Cook cited as an example of good practice. The company takes the words that users type into its search box and then automatically bids on those words in Google Ad Words to drive more traffic to its site. It also uses social streams. For

example, a user on a hotel page may see “five people are now looking at this holiday, two have just bought it” flagged up – and this makes that browser feel confident in booking it, and it “reassures them they are not mad for thinking about booking it”, said Marchal.

is always looking for more,” Qubit’s Cook said. “It’s about getting closer to your customers. We’re transforming concepts of how we serve the customer. As more people get digital, more data across multiple devices is being generated.” In today’s social media world, it also pays to get closer to customers because of their influence, he added. “Look at the power of customers now – they are in control. The have the power to destroy companies.” Dave O’Flanagan, chief executive at Irish start-up Boxever, agreed: “It’s all about getting to know your customers better: their likes, dislikes, buying behaviour – we give a lifecycle view of customer interactions. Companies don’t need data in the hands of a data scientist, but in the hands of an analyst.” Furthermore, while currently most people are happy for daily reports of sales, now the game is to return those results in milliseconds, he added.

But the question remains – is big data a big deal? The answer depends on how you deal with your customers. If you’re already close to them,

“The next phase of big data will see customers collect their own data, and then choose who to share it

with in return for special offers” Qubit’s Graham Cook

one iconic country. Apply now!” USAMEGAFAM.CO.UK


Big numbers were being bandied around at the “Big data, big sales” seminar, held at the recent Travel Technology Europe conference. Here’s what they mean:

Terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes Petabyte = 1,000 terabytes Exabyte = 1,000 petabytes

To put these figures into perspective, one exabyte is equivalent to the amount of information stored in the US National Congress Library, multiplied by half a million.

And five exabytes of data are created globally every day.

perhaps not. As seminar moderator Martin Cowley noted, this is something travel agents have actually been doing for a long time, but it’s just called small data. But if you are seeing more of your customers buying their holidays online, as the OTAs harness increasingly large amounts of data and gain better insight into visitors, then the answer is a big yes.

■To find out more, sign up at, which organises meet-ups in London.

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