Data is central to many businesses today, and the travel industry is no
exception. But with more data created than ever before, bordering on
information overload, data won't be meaningful unless there’s insights
at the virtual Tourism Data Leadership Conference organised by
Singapore Tourism Board (STB) on 2 March, STB’s chief technology officer
Wong Ming Fai recognises the complexity of the data-driven environment
facing travel industry today.
“In today's environment, data has become a key resource for
businesses. While each of us collect some data about this, none of us
really have a comprehensive view of the end-to-end journey of visitors,”
“Unless we come together to collaborate and unleash the power of
collective data for actionable insights to attract more business,
provide better experiences and market relevant products and experiences
During the virtual conference, travel association chiefs in Singapore
also came together to share their learnings and challenges of using
data in their respective industries.
Steven Ler, president, National Association of Travel Agents Singapore
There's a lack of data consolidation. Everybody's doing their little piggy banks of data where they only apply to themselves.
Fragmented data usage: Different segments of
agencies have different ability to generate data that we look at, so the
usage of data varies. Pre-Covid, demographic driven data such as the
length of stay, the typical family size, the amount that they're likely
to spend, were the data points many travel agencies used as a point of
identification to treat different customer segments arriving from
different destinations. The current challenges that the agencies are
facing primarily is the lack of data consolidation. Everybody's doing
their little piggy banks of data where they only apply to themselves.
Forget about historical data: Even the data that
we're looking for on a quarterly basis is changing quite a lot. When we
look at our own data during the opening of Singapore's vaccinated travel
lanes back in September 2021 and the data points for the forward few
months, they are different. We see people a lot more willing to travel
and opting for free and easy options over organised options, and booking
better quality offerings on top of it. So we cannot assume that the
historic data will give us that same insights.
Kevin Cheong, chairman, Association of Singapore Attractions
Collaborative competition: In the Smoky Mountains in
the US state of Tennessee, there’s a place called Pigeon Forge with
Dollywood and a couple of Titanic attractions. The operators come
together to do dynamic pricing early in the morning — how they can run
specials and bring in bargain hunters to visit at off-peak times and
seasons. Having said that, we also share and work together with travel
agents and hotels on the island of Sentosa to curate an itinerary that
can excite the whole family. And from the attraction standpoint, I think
we should not just treat each other as competition but really
collaborate and increase that fun quotient from our guests.
Less guesstimate, more insights: There’s
a lot of guesswork when it comes to data collection in the attractions
industry. All of us have a different perspective to the same person, be
it as a hotel guest or a business traveller visiting an attraction. If
data could be shared, it will help us build a 24-hour picture of the
traveller, times an X number of days, and curate a more wholesome
destination experience according to what this person wants.
Arthur Kiong, vice president, Singapore Hotels Association
No data can tell you what product and innovation to make. Steve Jobs didn't do a customer survey in order to create the iPod.
Common sense must prevail: Data is not gospel. For
example, a guest holding a British passport doesn't mean that he's
living in London; he could be booking from Hong Kong. So the source of
bookings is more important than a guest’s nationality. Essentially, it’s
these insights and common sense which are far more important than, you
know, ‘what does the data tell you?’ But sometimes, people use data to
hide behind making the tough decisions. And I think that's a danger as
we become more digitised. No data can tell you what product and
innovation to make. Steve Jobs didn't do a customer survey in order to
create the iPod.
Data doesn’t need sophisticated software: Data
doesn't have to come about because of a sophisticated software or
computer programme. Let’s just say we want to know whether we’re going
to offer a guest a free upgrade or a free breakfast. To test the
hypothesis of what a customer may require, you don't have to write a
programme, just use the chicken scratch method. ‘Would you prefer
upgrade or breakfast?' And then after three days, you might have asked
100 customers and 70% wanted an upgrade, and now you know you can
continue with the programme. As long as you account and analyse the
maths when talking about data, it doesn't mean some fancy software
programme is needed.
Richard Ireland, acting president, Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers
Let’s talk about trust: That's a challenge is around
trust. We’re all in very competitive businesses. While we all want to
see our industry do well, and Singapore do well, there's the issue of
trust. How do I trust who I'm sharing my data with? I think these are
the major challenges that we face when it comes to data sharing.
Data for greater recovery: As an industry we can use
data for the greater good. During the Covid period, we did pilot
events, to demonstrate through data, that events are safe for everyone
to attend. Now, if the data was not shared, the collective good in the
industry wouldn't be realised. Historically, in the MICE industry, a lot
of data is shared around the scale of a show, e.g. how many square
metres, how many attendees, etc, which is quite poor data. As we move
into recovery, where everyone talks about high satisfaction scores or
effective market channels, you can really position your industry as an
industry of strength if you share more macro data.