Making Sense of the Data: A Hotelier’s Struggle

More often than not, hoteliers are unable to use the data at their disposal in really useful ways. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Technology can help.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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If there is one company that knows data, it’s Amazon. And while hoteliers have been trying their best to understand and use the data they have at their disposal, more often than not, the data is underutilized or even just plain ignored. However, David Peller, Managing Director, Travel & Hospitality, Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), wants hoteliers to know it doesn’t have to be that way. Even better, historical data isn’t as important as the data that is being collected in real time, which means that hoteliers can start leveraging data effectively right away without having to first sort through old data. To learn more about this and how this can be, check out this second part of our two-part interview with Peller.

[You can read the first part here.]


How is the use of data in hospitality changing?

There's more data created in one hour today than was created in one year, 20 years ago. There's going to be more data created in the next three years than in the past 30 years. So, today data is absolutely at the center of our industry and for too long, that data has been siloed. For example, you've got data from the travelers and the guests via web and mobile searches. You've got direct bookings, indirect bookings, online and offline agencies, meta search providers and intermediaries. Then there's the loyalty programs and service providers. There's a ton of data.

But all of that historical data that we have, even if it was all connected today, is probably not likely going to be the best predictor of future demand given how travel patterns have changed. And it is continuing to evolve right now. My travel patterns today are entirely different than they've probably been for the past 40 years. That would suggest that the data that you have, isn't going to be as useful as it could be moving forward. And so there's a couple of interesting, I think, points around that. And inevitably I think they will lead to cloud because travel companies, hotel companies, hospitality companies need to be able to ingest, store, process and analyze evermore volumes of data in real time to make it actionable and useful.

Travelers expect much more personalized offerings like we've been talking about. They expect high quality communications from their preferred travel brands and richer experiences than ever before. And what we're seeing at AWS is that those companies that can leverage the agility, the elasticity and cost advantages of processing data on the cloud -- building data lakes on AWS to break down the traditional silos and using machine learning to drive insights and curate unique offerings --  those customers are going to be so much better placed to build into the future. And we've seen that with customers like Hyatt hotels, for example, that is using machine learning services from AWS to understand patterns of behavior and look to make more personalized recommendations, to their customers, which is super interesting.

How can hospitality brands benefit from third-party data sources?

There's a service within AWS called the AWS Data Exchange. And you can think of this as a set of subscription services for data from validated data providers that you can subscribe to and bring directly into your own systems. For example, you can pull Foursquare data down to your AWS data lake, augment it with your hotel directory, and now you can immediately build, a really interesting sort of guest experience by talking about all the fascinating points of interest around your property without having to employ someone to do that research for you. Or consider the use of data from Skyscanner. It runs millions of searches every month on airlines and hotels. And that search information can be available via a subscription from the AWS data exchange. So, if you're interested in what destinations travelers thinking about right now, you can get that insight easily and use that to alter your marketing and even your pricing. For example, Wyndham is using AWS to really push through those dynamic rate adjustments across their nearly 9,000 properties which equates to approximately 90,000 rate adjustments a day.

How can hospitality brands benefit from using data to personalize the guest experience?

Something that our retail business is very well known for is personalized recommendations and we've taken this technology and we've launched a service through AWS called Amazon Personalized. Hotel companies let that system run across their data and then it will start to make personalized recommendations to guests. This works through email marketing campaigns, or dynamically on the web or via mobile. You can also insert it as part of the booking experience, so that it can offer guests alternative options to the room they’re looking to book that they might enjoy more.

How can data management via third-parties help the environment?

When companies move their operations to the cloud, specifically at AWS, their impact on the environment is significantly lessened because of the efficiency and optimizations that we run at scale. For example, we have a target of using 100 percent renewable energy across all of Amazon by 2030. We’re also committed to get to net zero carbon across our business by 2040 which is 10 years ahead of the Paris agreement. So, we’re really working hard to reduce the carbon impact of running the technology footprint for the hospitality industry.

[To learn about this in detail, check out this research report from Amazon that explains how moving to AWS can help customers reduce their carbon footprint for their IT operations by up to 88 percent.]

What are you currently excited about?

I mean, I'm excited by the fact that we're seeing demand for travel pickup in certain parts of the world.

While it remains challenging in many parts of the world today, it forced travel brands to look for different ways to engage their customers or prospective customers. And a lot of that thinking over the past 18 or so months has led to a big resurgence in the way that brands and hotel companies are thinking about the use of digital. So, I'm excited about that too. And then, you know, a lot of companies are starting to plan for next year. There are those sorts of green shoots of recovery both in the USA and in other markets around the world where capacity is high, REVPAR is high, etc. And that’s also exciting.