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Having a good grasp on market data this year could be more important than ever given the challenges in the travel sector, delegates at the launch of Qubit’s Future of Travel report were told this week.
Andy Washington, Expedia managing director for northern Europe, told the event in London that July 8 is a crucial day for the industry.
This is two weeks before the start of the school holidays when legacy operators would usually hand over all their remaining inventory to their late sales teams.
However, Washington said the Zika virus in central and south America and the threat of terrorism, which is shifting demand to ‘safe’ destinations, is skewing the market meaning 2015 could be a “defining year”.
“The data will tell you that traditionally July 8 is the date that you should go and book your holiday. But this year it’s going to be very, very different. This year is quite a defining year for all businesses in our travel industry.”
Washington told delegates that analysing data to make sense of the vast quantities Expedia collects is at the heart of the firm’s strategy.
He said a successful test and learn business ethos must involve everyone in the company, be instant and be fun, the speed of change meaning “everything we do today will be different in six months time”.
That is why Expedia has adopted a strategy of constantly testing new hypothesis and learning and why it carried out over 4,000 tests in 2015 to make a succession of incremental improvements.
“We make small changes frequently,” he said. “Our customers are telling us how to run our business rather than the legacy top down model where the business tells you what to do.”
Expedia operates on a 120-day test and learn cycle and anyone in the business is able to run a test. The ideas are voted on to decide which are taken up and the results analysed.
“We have 700 data analysts. We use smart data. We all have data coming out of our ears, it’s how you use it, how you engineer it,” Washington said.
The Future of Travel Report includes contributions from futurist Glen Hiemstra, robotics expert Brennon Williams and senior executive from Expedia, Thomas Cook, glh Hotels, and Crystal Ski.
Produced in association with Travolution and Travel Weekly, it is available to download now for free from the Qubit website.