Skift Take

The travel industry creates a substantial amount of data, and connecting the dots to actually use it for business strategy hasn’t been so simple — until now. The Airline Reporting Corporation’s cloud-based data infrastructure is delivering real-time insights to help airlines, agencies, and destinations make better decisions.

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Take a look at the mountain of data from airlines over the past two and a half years, and you might start scratching your head. Between border closures, mask mandates, work-from-anywhere models, and lingering uncertainty throughout the world, establishing any kind of pattern for travel behaviors has been difficult. However, the world is slowly beginning to fall into a rhythm.

“The 2020 and 2021 data is a bit of an outlier for long-term analysis,” said Chuck Thackston, managing director of data science at the Airlines Reporting Corporation, “but there are indications that we’re getting back to a level of more reliable predictability.”

As a new picture of booking preferences comes into view, what kind of insights are emerging? ARC’s ticketing data — 15 billion passenger trips on 490 airlines at 3,330 airports — is helping the entire travel experience ecosystem understand how to move forward and meet a new set of customer expectations.

Spotting New Service Needs

While many of the headlines surrounding summer travel focused on airlines cutting flights and scaling back service in certain markets, ARC’s insights tell another side of the story: Where airlines should be looking to create more route options.

“Airlines can use the data to look at underserved markets,” Thackston said. “After the bumps in the summertime, airlines have been taking a measured approach to adding routes to their schedules. Our data can help them connect the dots to identify where to add capacity first. It gives airlines a chance to respond to demand and removes the guesswork from determining which markets will drive their business.”

ARC’s data is ultimately designed to trickle down to the most important piece of the experience: the traveler. For example, the company’s new Advanced Data Analytics feature allows users to predict which scheduled itineraries will be most attractive for travelers.

Offering Opportunities for Agencies and Destinations

As leisure demand continues to fuel the first phase of the recovery, Thackston points out that ARC’s data presents valuable opportunities for travel agencies, too.

“There is some opportunity to look at areas that are not as obvious in the recovery curve,” he said. “Meaning, these may be places that are great travel destinations, especially on the leisure travel side, where they can look at these places and say, ‘Well, it’s a great place to go,’ but it hasn’t been on top of many people’s lists. Perhaps it will be less crowded and present a good buy for more budget-conscious leisure travelers.”

ARC’s data also offers a clear opportunity for other key players in the industry. The company’s new Destination Gateway tool is designed to help convention and visitors bureaus and destination marketing organizations get a deeper understanding of how web searches, service schedules, and capacity compare with their competitive set.

Understanding What’s Changed for the Foreseeable Future

Some pieces of the traditional corporate travel landscape are still gone — and may never return. The rise of virtual meeting platforms means that booking a trip from New York to London solely for a three-hour meeting isn’t likely going to happen. However, it doesn’t mean that the trip is entirely off the table.

“People are starting to look at bleisure opportunities a bit more,” Thackston said. “Additionally, some companies are trying to look at combining trips for a higher return on investment by visiting three or four customers. It makes the booking a bit more complex.”

We’re also seeing some things that we’re looking at in more detailed instances, where there are trips that are not coming back soon,” he added. “For example, travel into and around China is very slow to recover and is still a long way out. ”

That’s a clear hurdle for the U.S. travel industry, which has previously made a big bet on high-spending Chinese travelers. The country’s zero-covid measures, which include a negative test and a 14-day quarantine for passengers, are likely the major hurdle in the way. Until the government amends the policy, travel companies will need to forecast with the expected absence of Chinese tourists.

Taking the Hard Work Out of Data Analysis

The ability to gather all these new insights sounds promising, but for a travel industry rooted in a maze of disconnected legacy technologies, harnessing the real power of large data sets has felt a bit like trying to fly around the world without stopping for fuel: It’s impossible.

“We ask ourselves a fundamental question every time we are working with a customer: What is easiest for that company to get access to the data and be able to extract value?” Thackston said. “Fitting in with the IT group is crucial. That’s the only way it’s going to work very, very quickly.”

The other piece of the ARC puzzle is all about the most limited resource in every company: time.

“There are things that we can do quickly to add value to a customer’s results, whether that’s looking at specific markets, personas, or customers,” Thackston said. “We take an incremental approach that allows us to jump in and immediately make an impact in two or three key areas with the plan to accomplish even more in the future.”

“A lot of airlines have every technology platform you could imagine,” he added. “They are actually getting much better at consolidating and making it more efficient. Some airlines are leading the way, coming into ARC’s databases directly, grabbing that data, and using it on a real-time basis. That saves them time and money from not having to receive a file, ingest it, and have their IT staff create systems for it. That’s really where our passion is and where we’re focusing our time — to make more of that data available a lot easier for both large and small airlines and travel agencies.”

To learn more about how ARC’s customizable data solution can boost your company’s air travel intelligence, visit the ARC Data webpage.

This article was created collaboratively by Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Tags: airline innovation, airlines, arc, consumer behavior, customer data, customer experience, data, guest data, SkiftX Showcase: Technology

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