You can’t escape the reach of Big Data, regardless of what sort of industry you’re involved in, or business that you own. And with the increasing reliance on the Internet, mobile computing, cloud storage, and social media, using Big Data has become more important than ever.

To sum it up quickly, Big Data is generally defined as the massive influx of information gleaned from a diverse variety of sources, everything from traditional methods such as customer feedback (comment cards, surveys) to social networking analytics. This information is then offered in structured and unstructured forms, a glut of data that can easily overwhelm the unprepared.

The “Big” in Big Data refers to not only the volume of information, but also the breadth, ease of its access, and the speed at which you get it. So, in other words, it’s vast, easy, and fast.

Big Data gives the hospitality industry a new tool to step up its game

It should come as no surprise that the hospitality industry is embracing Big Data. A lot of Big Data is sifting through social media signals, finding out about people and what they do, and when you pause and consider, isn’t that what the hospitality industry is all about?

There you go, then. So let’s take a look first at what the hospitality industry gains from Big Data, then what are the costs of those benefits.

The Benefits of Big Data
With customer data gathered all in one place where it makes it easier to paint and see the big picture, hotels can make better informed decisions in terms of customer service and marketing. By using analytics, savvy hotel chains can target their best repeat customers with extra incentives and promotions, while creating separate deals and perks for those who don’t visit as often, in the hopes of increasing their business.

Big Data analytics are also valuable in aiding hotels in setting the best prices for their rooms, keeping the costs competitive and yet attractive to the would-be guest. This sort of optimization also extends to other services that hotels provide, such as function room rentals, restaurants, and catering.

The benefits extend beyond customer relations and even seep into areas such as daily operations. Big Data can help hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality-driven businesses in saving money on utilities by analyzing things like weather data and energy rates, for instance. IT operations analytics help monitor a hotel’s IT environment, watching out for service breakdowns that may end up losing a hotel business through missed bookings.

The Challenges of Big Data
Naturally, no innovation comes without its cost and/or downside. While the hospitality industry faces the same difficulties as other sectors (in other words, so much data, so little time!), it faces its own unique obstacles.

“An increasing number of organizations across the world are looking for the best solutions to collect and analyze data from every corner of the enterprise ─ from mainframe to mobile,” said Josh Rogers, President, Syncsort. “Local language support is critical to meeting the growing demand for our software to help make Big Data more accessible and less expensive to collect and transform for analysis.”

In other words, when you’re talking about the hospitality industry, you have a greater likelihood that it involves a multinational (and consequently, multilingual) entity. All of that sweet Big Data collated and presented in one easy to use package is useless if it isn’t delivered in the host country’s language.

In addition to language differences, there’s the whole matter of different computing platforms, where you could run into everything from legacy mainframes to the most up-to-date mobile devices. If hotel A has all of the latest mobile computing resources and hotel B, part of the same chain, is stuck with end of life equipment, not everyone is going to get the maximum use out of that Big Data.

That’s why it’s incumbent on any multinational hospitality chain to have a standardized infrastructure where all of the units have the same capabilities to access, understand, and implement the information culled from Big Data. While this usually means making a significant investment of money and resources to make this happen, the upside of Big Data’s benefits make the whole question of whether or not to commit to this a no-brainer.

This article was contributed by John Terra who has been a freelance writer since 1985. He suspects Big Data is behind some of the very personalized offers he’s received from some hotel chains.

Photo Credit: wbeem

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