Analytics and data are changing every facet of our world. In The State of BI & Analytics, we expand on our original research, keeping you ahead of the curve on the world of analytics, data, and business intelligence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every sector. Government responses the world over are still struggling to make headway against the virus and it’s left businesses and banks scrambling for answers as to when a recovery will take hold and what it will look like.

This generation-defining crisis has dealt a monumental blow to the global travel industry. The UN World Tourism Organization predicts that worldwide tourism revenues could shrink by at least $1.2 trillion this year (for context, 2019’s world travel industry value was $2.9 trillion). However, the tourism industry is resilient. It’s confronted world-changing issues before and undoubtedly will do so again. The key to surviving crises like these lies in being decisive and adapting. Companies that do so will survive — and when the dust settles — thrive.

Sisense for BI & Analytics Teams

Using data to find solutions: The State of BI & Analytics

Right now, many companies are focused on cutting costs to stay afloat and data and analytics are key to their plans. According to our State of BI & Analytics survey, almost 90% of data professionals across all industries believe analytics can help provide much-needed insight today.

Small businesses lead larger ones in overall analytics adoption across their organizations. This is an important detail to keep in mind, since businesses of all kinds are using analytics to pivot their business strategies. Travel respondents in our survey, specifically enterprise organizations such as airlines, are playing catchup as they start to look beyond conventional thinking by tapping analytics and delivering action-oriented real-time information. 

Charting a new course for airlines and travel companies

What are the possible air travel demand scenarios? In the past, airlines were able to gauge demand based on seasonal booking patterns determined many months, if not years, ahead.

High unemployment will stifle leisure travel recovery, so airlines have to quickly adapt to meet changing buyer behavior. Timing is vital; airlines that can tap dynamic datasets and optimize schedules at the right time will prosper. Data-driven decisions are powering the next phase of the recovery process, and there is a need for speed.

With health, safety, and social-distancing top of mind, the new norm is now low- (or no-) touch and mobile-friendly. Airports and airlines have embraced the concept of smart self-service, from online check-in and print-at-home bag tags to automated baggage drop. Some airlines have made significant strides in automating the passenger journey, but even low-touch likely won’t cut it in a post-pandemic world. Air travel is slowly but surely going contactless.

SITA streamlines airport interactions

SITA’s next-gen mobile-enabled technology empowers a no-touch alternative that avoids physical interaction, and has been partially rolled out at San Francisco International Airport. For example, passengers can navigate through check-in kiosks, bag drop, and departure gates without a single touch via a cloud-based native platform.

“We planned a timeline of several years for testing and deployment of our touchless technology across airports globally,” said Sebastien Fabre, head of SITA for Aircraft at aviation tech solutions provider SITA. “But the COVID-19 crisis has forced us to escalate this. We’ve also had to tweak it around the new health considerations and social distancing.” 

SITA found the crisis has created some unintended benefits: SITA’s flow prediction and monitoring solutions, built on massive passenger-behavior datasets, were initially designed to manage passenger movement and minimize congestion.

“This same technology can allow airports to enforce social distancing and alert smartphone users to potential overcrowding,” Fabre added.

Using biometrics for seamless, smarter travel

When touchless tech is combined with biometrics, the experience becomes even more frictionless. Pre-departure verification with facial recognition has been seeing broader use.  The obvious benefit is more seamless boarding and border checkpoint processing, but there are myriad other use cases. In time these processes could incorporate personal health data into a so-called “immunity passport.” Other uses include integrated contact tracing or strengthening loyalty program security.

“A critical element will be for governments to harmonize the approach to checking the validity of health status and sharing this information effectively,” says Jeremy Springer, SITA’s VP of border management.

Aeroporti di Roma, which operates Fiumicino and Rome’s secondary airport Ciampino, was in the eye of the storm when COVID-19 swept through Europe. Several years ago, the airport authority invested in cloud data analytics after ranking poorly for customer service. When the virus took hold, business processes were able to react quickly to adapt “new normal” measures.

“We have an innovation lab and fast response team which enabled quick decisions and rollout,” said Ivan Bassato, EVP, Airport Management at Aeroporti di Roma. “We were able to quickly put things in place and spread a sense of trust.”

Envisioning data-driven personalization in airports

Airlines have vast datasets on customer travel history, preferences, loyalty program activity, and purchase behavior, yet these have barely been used to their full potentials. Leveraging data for targeted marketing is more critical than ever right now. One exciting upcoming development is Delta Air Lines’ “Parallel Reality.” 

Inside this larger-than-life-sounding program, once a passenger scans their boarding pass, personalized messages are relayed on large public TV screens throughout the airport. These messages offer wayfinding information such as directions to the gate or where to find the business lounge. The beauty of the program is that multiple passengers can view the same screen but will receive unique content tailored just for them via smartphone tracking.

Building a better future for travelers

This market turbulence may lead to a watershed moment for the industry to leverage arguably their most valuable asset ⁠— data ⁠— to overcome current challenges and better predict outcomes. The commercial airline industry has long relied on complex modeling for safety and maintenance, route planning, and fuel efficiency. Yet there is a wealth of data that is not being exploited commercially or to monitor the changes in traveler behavior, particularly with airline loyalty programs. The industry is basically struggling through a hard reset. New approaches to yield management will be key to the recovery process. Agile companies that use data and real-time predictive analysis effectively will face fewer headwinds in the long term.

Sisense for BI & Analytics Teams

Sarah Prawl is a seasoned marketer with a passion for storytelling and content creation. She specializes in audience development, building marketing campaigns through social media, email, web, and events.

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