At first, AirBnB was a way to make rent. In 2007, founders Brian Chelsky and Joe Gebbia couldn’t afford already-skyrocketing San Francisco prices, and set up three airbeds on the floor. Instead of simply posting to already-burgeoning Craigslist about their “bed and breakfast,” they started a website. And that’s where one of the travel industry’s biggest disruptors began.
Since then, AirBnB has changed, going through ups and downs, but ultimately building a business model from connecting people looking for cheap-but-safe lodging with hosts. Instead of opening a hotel chain, or simply collecting current bed and breakfast sites into one search engine, AirBnB created a business model from (essentially) couch surfing–creating a model for digital disruption.
And this SaaS-y reinvention of travel services has permeated the industry, creating new opportunities for more traditional players to step up and get digital. From mobile boarding passes, to digital-first loyalty programs, to better apps for airlines and hotels, the travel industry is one of the great success stories of the digital revolution. But what comes next when your industry has completely transformed?
From Digital to Data–The Second Wave
Some leaders in the travel space already know that data is the future of the business. Flight pricing was one of the first projects that proved the concept of Big Data, and the behavioral data generated by travel is larger than many other industries. But with so much data, how will organizations find value?
“Data used to divide people,
but now I believe data brings
people together. That’s exciting.”
Hong Tsui, VP, Finance and Analytics
Unlocking the value of travel data is not only crucial to digitizing the industry, it can open new business models and revenue streams. Just look at Switchfly, the leading travel commerce & loyalty redemption platform, which has made a business of assisting travel companies, loyalty programs and financial services institutions engage with their highest value customers. By leveraging the wave of information about customer purchase patterns, Switchfly is able to provide white-labeled travel technology solutions that generated $1.25 billion USD in annual travel bookings.
More traditional travel organizations might say–but Switchfly is a tech company! What if your organization didn’t start in tech, but needs to join the data monetization revolution? Look to FCm Travel Solutions, who created a new online product from their corporate travel data. Instead of requiring agents to create dashboards for their clients, they used embedded analytics to create a self-service portal that gives their users insight into the savings they’ve had using FCm’s corporate travel negotiation services.
Although FCm’s data product is a new addition to their business, Director of BI Stephen Pitcher already reports that their customers “have never been happier.” In an industry where customer loyalty is key, creating data products your customers love is now key to competitive success.
Data monetization may be a new concept to the travel industry, but much like the digital revolution of five years ago, it will become essential to success. So to our partners in discovering travel data products and services, I say, go forth and find real value in your data. You might be the next disruptor.