Did you catch this? 2014 notables.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

Did you catch this?

A wrap-up of some all-2014 notables*:

 

China in

Previous official counts do not add up to the all-2014 total given – but the difference is not substantial. My counts show foreign (passport holders) visitors were flat (+0.5%).

 

Of the biggest sources (in size): Koreans +5%, Japanese -6%, US nationals +0.4%.

 

But note the distortion – an American national living in Hong Kong, for example, is counted as being from the US when he enters China.

 

 

China out

A storming end to the year, after some weak earlier months. I estimate the total grew 15%.

 

 

US in

Heading for a mixed year. Growth 7%, and slightly higher, closer to +8%, for the overseas markets (non Canada, Mexico). The best was Mexico, representing around 23% of the total – and growing at 20%!

 

That overall growth hides the fact that two or the top-4 markets were falling – Canada, Japan. The other, the UK, was +3%.

 

 

US out

Total +10%. But the big item was travel to Mexico. This seems to be a mutual pact, with outbound +22% matching the +20% inbound-from-Mexico. That growth makes Mexico 37% of the total.

 

Europe and Asia Pacific were each +4%, but the Caribbean (smaller than Europe but bigger than AsPac) was +10%.

 

 

In Asia Pacific

-Visitor arrivals. Full-year – Japan +29%! Korea +18%! Taiwan +23%! YTD Asia Pacific regional +5%.

-International airline seat sales. Full-year – Air China +18%! China Southern +21%!

-Outbound travel, YTD, our estimates. China +15%, India +1%, Asia Pacific regional +9%.

 

 

In Europe

Unlike AsPac, more interesting because growth was slight, or worse:

-Airline seat sales, groups, in size order: Austrian & Lufthansa & Swiss +1%, Air France & KLM 0.2%, but British & Iberia +9%.

-Visitor arrivals: France-E +1%, Spain +7%, Germany-E +4%.

-Resident departure spend, in size order: Germany-E +2%, UK-E +4%, Russia -6%.

 

*A report on these topics in our Travel Business Analyst newsletters contains some important additional observations on the data shown here.

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

 

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Getting cross at roads.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

 

Getting cross at roads.

An excerpt from our monthly Travel Business Analyst newsletter.

 

I’ve done road-maps. I’ve done junctions. I’ve done crossroads, and many more traffic interventions. Now Amadeus tells me that the industry is standing at a ‘Big Data Crossroads’ (BDC).

 

The core of this 32-page report is ‘Big Data’ (hereinafter, BD). Despite that, I could find only one one-sentence explanation for ‘BD’ – “…large volume, unstructured data known as big data…” That’s it! Anything, everything, nothing. Something that might otherwise be casually described as “a lot of information to think about”.

 

Separately, not in the report, sponsor Amadeus appears to define BD in a way that is not as dramatic as billed in the report – “…to embrace the changing structure of data in order to maximize it”.

 

But Amadeus also adds a new element that I could not find in any form in the report – “…BD also offers me the chance to ‘put the fun back into travel’, which at its very heart is about improving the passenger experience”. Where? How? What?

 

I found, deep in the report, what to me better describes BD – although it is not billed as this, and refers just to airlines:

 

“…key data is often fragmented across multiple functions and units. For example, airline data on the passenger experience is spread across flight operations, baggage, loyalty programs, complaint databases, and external sources like social media. In order to make effective decisions about how to promote offers to customers and recover from service failures, airlines need to combine all of this information into one data warehouse and one set of algorithms.”

 

 

There is good information in the BDC but it is almost overwhelmed by vague, irrelevant, self-evident, old-knowledge commentary usually wrapped in the special redundancy-replete language often found in consultant-written reports (what I name ‘consultese’).

 

BDC findings/statements include the following. Some apparent quotations may have been paraphrased to ease comprehension. (Any comments from me in brackets.)

 

 

 

The Good.

– The report gives examples of how leading companies use BD. Such as Kayak’s fare forecasting (giving customers the likely changes in fares over a 7-day window). Or Air France-KLM’s Hadoop (open-source software for group-wide revenue management system) – although AFK is just implementing this.

 

Other case studies include Amadeus itself, British Airways, Marriott.

 

But there is no indication of the ‘huge impact’ that BD has on business – as noted below.

 

There seems nothing special about these. To me they are little more than examples of companies coming up with good ideas to run their businesses better. Indeed, could not the creation of Kayak as a company (giving people a range of air fares at a specific time on a specific route) be considered an example of BD? Or going back further, the Thomas Cook idea of collecting rates from different sources to create a single-price tour package to the French Riviera?

 

– The BDC includes some recommendations, although not all are remarkable when stripped of their consultese:

-Research BD. (Means do more research.)

 

-“Strategize about BD”. (Means decide what to do.)

 

-Start assembling BD skills. (Presumably this must be done at step-one.)

 

-Work with partners. (This cannot be general advice because it depends on the case details.)

 

 

 

The Bad.

– I do not like the accreditation for the BDC study, which Amadeus tells me is “authored by Harvard Business School professor” Thomas Davenport. Unconsciously, I would categorise this as a Harvard University report; it is not. Worse, the report describes Davenport as actually a ‘visiting professor’ (at HBS, not HU), not quite so important.

 

– “Harnessing high volumes of new, unstructured data offers the promise of better decision-making, greater product innovation and stronger customer relationships.” Yes, but equally it might not.

 

– Travel companies must “benchmark their maturity while assembling data science skills to devise a BD strategy.” Baffling, but appears meaningless or self-evident at best – ie, does it mean ‘study information, learn from it, and act on it’?

 

– “Benefits of BD include better decision-making, greater product- and service-innovation, stronger customer-relationships through new approaches to customer- revenue-management, internal operations.” Ditto.

 

– “New open-source software to separate data-processing across servers, with databases including ‘columnar’ or [Amadeus says “and”] ‘vertical’ approaches, new program-languages – such as Python, Pig, Hive – combine to deliver the potential to harness BD”. Baffling again, or meaningless, not least because you cannot ‘deliver a potential’ – as a professor should know.

 

– “There are significant challenges to access BD, including: data in different places; new and old data-management systems; finding people who can access and interpret BD; managing data.” Nothing new in this – apart from the ‘consultese’.

 

– The author says: “Some leading companies are pioneering the use of BD and already seeing a huge impact.” No examples, although use of the ‘huge’ adjective requires examples for minimum credibility.

 

 

 

Neither here nor there.

– There is a lot more industry information available and it is not easy to interpret all into actionable information. But in no sense is this a ‘crossroads’. Since forever, businesses have faced similar decisions. There is more information now than 10 years ago, when there was more than the 10 years earlier, and then will be even more in 10 years from now.

 

– Many of the ideas expressed are in effect reports on ongoing development in the online space. In that respect these ideas are how companies should develop their online sales activity. But I fail to see any crossroads.

 

– Is this report nothing more than a subliminal sales pitch from Amadeus? “We are committed to facilitating discussion on key trends in order to participate in the debate around how the future of our industry will be shaped, and the key talking point right now is undoubtedly BD. It is impossible to overstate the transformative potential of BD, both in terms of improving the travel experience and how the wider industry itself operates.” Although some of this does not quite follow the theme of the BDC. 

 

– “BD is perhaps the single biggest opportunity in a generation for the travel businesses.” That is wild overstatement for an organisation that is generally associated with good business management.

 

 

 

Off-track.

 

The BDC goes wayward sometimes:

– Saying British Airways must compete with airlines “backed by sovereign wealth”. I presume this is reference to Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, but the other (200?) airlines BA must compete with are not backed by sovereign wealth.

 

– Saying BA’s customers are “busy people”, so the company has designed programs for tailored offers to them. Really? What about BA’s customers who are not ‘busy’; retired people, for instance?

 

– Saying BA results from BD are “very positive”. Unsatisfactory reporting for such a report.

 

– If a hotel can predict “the optimal price at which to fill all its rooms, it will make more money”. Unfortunately, not true; it is the balance that needs to be right. To fill all rooms, a hotel needs simply to sell them all at $1 – but it will not make much money from that.

 

– GE “aggressively places” sensors in jet engines, “hoping that the data from them will allow both more efficient operations and more timely maintenance”. I do not see the difference between this and other technical improvements, even if BDC adds the moniker ‘BD’.

 

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.