At a time when terms like Big Data and personalization can be found in nearly any conversation about the future of travel, it’s important to know that there’s a lot more to both concepts than what is generally discussed.

“Data science is not magical,” Amanda Richardson, HotelTonight chief data and strategy officer, said. “Data science brings together a lot of different aspects. There are business and technology aspects and statistical rigor and methodology is also important.”

Richardson, along with Kayak’s Matthias Keller, chief scientist and vice president of technology, were speaking to Skift Travel Tech Editor Sean O’Neill at the inaugural Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley in June.

The key to breaking through the hype of Big Data and personalization, Keller said, was to ask: “What problem are you trying to solve with data?”

And when it comes to personalization, travel brands should also ask themselves when it’s best to employ it to make sure it really matters. For instance, trying to personalize a travel experience for a guest who only travels once or twice a year isn’t nearly as impactful as doing so for a frequent traveler.

In addition to clearing up some common misperceptions about how brands should use data science and deploy personalization, both Richardson and Keller spoke about their observations on advances in voice technology and the ever-present challenges of ensuring data privacy.

While Keller said that voice-based transactions, such as booking hotels or travel using your voice, are still a few years out from becoming a common occurrence, he did say that voice assistants will be playing a bigger role as an information provider, such as providing flight details or helping inspire travelers.

Richardson said that mobile technology is especially a “ground zero for bad data usage” but, because of that, she and her team at HotelTonight are very careful and “judicious” about only asking for information that can be of value to customers.

You can watch the entire interview above, or consider reading more coverage of Skift Tech Forum.

At Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley, travel tech executives gathered for a day of inspiration, information, and conversation.

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Photo Credit: Hotel Tonight's Amanda Richardson and Kayak's Matthias Keller spoke at the inaugural Skift Tech Forum in June. Skift