Spanish tourism chokes on ‘big data’


The figures are incontestable. Tourism is one of the main engines of the Spanish economy. In 2019, it contributed 154,487 million euros to national wealth – 12.4% of GDP – and generated 2.72 million jobs, according to the latest study by the National Institute of Statistics. But this was before a pandemic swept through the sector. The coronavirus has left three out of four visitors who arrived last year in their countries of origin. An unprecedented damage exacerbated by the scarce digitization of the industry, in particular of such an indispensable element, and repeated ad nauseam during the last decade, such as the big data.

Aware of the deficiencies, Jorge Núñez decided to undertake four years ago and found the startup AdQuiver. The technology that it puts at the service of tourism is difficult to describe as disruptive. As he explains, he is in charge of converting information into intelligence; and intelligence in direct sales. His proposal is a combination of the usual suspects in any transformation: data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning and algorithmic. Based on the important volume of information it handles, which it collects both through unique data provided by users and from aggregated databases, it detects who is interested in booking a hotel or flight and creates the offer almost instantly.

An apparently so simple process, which we are used to seeing in the form of a personalized advertisement while browsing or looking at our social networks, for Spanish tourism is anything but simple. Big names like Booking and Airbnb take over these techniques. Not even the big hotel chains can compete as equals with the information traffic they handle. And in the current context it worsens because it is time to sell almost door to door to keep the business afloat. “The digital deficiencies of the sector have been revealed with the pandemic. The industry was not concerned about the customer. They were not managing customers digitally. It is impossible for them to know them as much as Booking, for example, ”says Núñez.

The knowledge to which it refers goes further than understanding how a user navigates, what pages he visits or how he operates on the Internet. Tourism would be like a cascade of information from multiple sources, including the context, knowing if it is sunny or raining at that time and being aware that after booking a flight there is also a high percentage of hotel reservations. Digital behavior, through which to generate those direct sales, involves combining an infinity of variables. “Airlines have an impact on car rentals, for example. Achieving an intelligent ecosystem, where data flows between everyone, would improve the performance of the sector. The added intelligence of each actor drives the rest ”, suggests Núñez.

Faced with this situation, and despite the fact that the crisis imposed by the covid still has several months to go before it disappears, tourism needs to rethink how it is going to face its future. Núñez is clear that he is going through a digital rebirth – “there is no other way out,” he predicts. The basis of the system lies in the management of customers. The advantage acquired by the large digital multinationals seems insurmountable, but the injection of 140,000 million euros over the next five years from European reconstruction funds could be a shock. “At the service level, Spain is excellent. Different story is the big data and the intelligence it generates. Here you have to make an effort. If not, we will be sold to Booking, among others ”, ditch.

Locate the customer

The CEO of AdQuiver knows above all the reality of hotels. In his experience, the lack of investment in your business development affects finding new customers. His model focuses more on retaining people who repeat a reservation at a certain establishment. “Living from what always happens there comes a time that is cut short. Nowadays, it is evident ”, specifies Núñez. A way to reverse it, which does not stop being what its startup, would be aimed at managing the data hidden behind the digital ecosystem. It is the most basic mechanism to locate the user at the right time and in the most effective way. That is, generate business for yourself without depending on the rest.

The arrival of the vaccine brings a horizon of hope to tourism. While immunity advances, the sector must find a way to survive, as well as to advance in a transformation that so far has proven insufficient. As soon as governments have relaxed mobility measures, the industry has rebounded. However, the winners of these little oases in the middle of the desert are almost always the same.

The future, as in the vast majority of economic activities, holds a large question mark. Uncertainty has become the only certainty of the pandemic. The diagnosis about how Spanish tourism should face what is to come seems clear. The magic formulas are best left to science fiction, although in the words of Núñez, his industry must necessarily focus on three aspects if it intends to engage and lead the recovery. “Big data, artificial intelligence and business intelligence they make up the necessary trident with which to transform tourism. If you don’t know how to use these elements, you lose competitiveness ”, he concludes.

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