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This content is taken from the Edinburgh Napier University & Scottish Enterprise's online course, Understanding Data in the Tourism Industry. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 0 secondsThere's definitely a fear about data, data is a funny thing, almost everybody knows that they have to use it and it's really important for them to use it, but hardly anybody is actually using it well. I'd really liken it to probably the first days that, the the Internet, where everyone knew that they needed a website but actually very few people really understood what that website should do, or indeed how it should be built, or indeed even what its function should be. Big fears that a lot of companies have with data, is not knowing where to start and not having any guidance on how data could potentially help their business.

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 secondsSome of the barriers and fears that I think the generally people feel about data, not just the tourism sector, is that it is erm it's expensive to capture and to get right, it's expensive to store, it's expensive to get the expertise, it's time-consuming and I think one of the fears actually, rather than barrier is that it will tell you something you don't want to know. We definitely see this internally where erm people ask for analysis and insight into things like, you know workers surveys and rates of pay and people are what if it tells us something that we don't want to know?

Skip to 1 minute and 5 secondsit's at least it tells or something we can action and I think each individual organization and business needs to understand if that knowledge is of value to them, or if it's of detriment to them. Probably people think you need to be good at maths, you don't. It does help, but you don't have to be good at maths, what you do need to be good at is logic and solving puzzles I think, so if you like doing the Sudoku or a crosswords you're probably gonna like looking at your business data. So it's it's matching up those instincts that you have about your business, that you're just naturally observing and then finding the evidence to back it up.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsI think one of the main challenges for people is probably their level of confidence, extracting data from whatever systems they're using, or they're using a system that doesn't allow you to extract data that's a big problem So then sometimes you're gonna have to replace systems to be able to get data out, but maybe before you do that see what you can get.

Perceptions and misconceptions

In this video you will hear discussion about some of the fears that people may have when thinking about data and their business but also to hear why these are mostly unfounded or can be overcome.

1. Data is an asset

Data doesn’t need to be complicated. Even the smallest business generates data. People secure it every day. If your business has a website, social media presence, or accepts credit cards etc., you can collect data on customers, their behaviour, preferences, experiences and so on. From a tourism perspective, this could be guest information such as country of origin. It is important to create a strategy to plan how to collect, use and protect data.

2. Data enables you to collect better market and customer intelligence

Data can help you get better insights into what customers want, what they will use, and what channels they use to buy etc. You can also divide up customer data, for example relating to age range, country of origin, buying habits, product usage, and grouping similar data together, to gain particular insights or tailor messaging to different groups. Grouping data (segmentation) further helps you to assess which groups are most profitable to your business, enabling you to invest more in those and avoid wasting money on segments unlikely to yield conversions.

3. Data can improve internal efficiency and operations

Data can assist you in optimising processes and improve efficiency in service delivery, for example through automated processes. Having a digital platform or in-house app can free up a lot of time for staff to spend on other things, such as creating a more personalised guest experience.

4. Data allows you to improve your product offering and the customer experience

To stay competitive, your product or service needs to be tailored to your customer. In order to gain - and retain – customers, you need to interact with them and build one-to-one relationships. Data-driven insights can help you understand your customers’ needs and act upon them by developing your products in a fast-paced environment. Customer feedback can also be used to improve the quality of your product or level of service and identify opportunities for innovation that will set you apart from the competition.

Myth 1: “I don’t have data to work with”

Data is a very broad term. Essentially, it is information that is of use. We collect it all the time, from a vast number of different outlets and inputs. Even as the smallest business, chances are you already collect data on who your customers are, how they behave and what their preferences are. Similarly, you will have data on your business, such as what products and services are popular and yield more revenue than others. Data is essentially a collection of facts and statistics collected together for analysis. Any data you are collecting is information, and any information you are collecting is data. Think about numbers and statistics you collect on customer demographics, booking behaviour and feedback that you can use to gain insights. Data is essentially information that can help you make good decisions.

Myth 2: “Sharing data harms my business”

When considering sharing data with collaborators, it really depends on your business and what you’re looking for from it. You can share as much data as you want with a partner or a collaborator on a project. If historical data is anonymised, there should be no issues with that whatsoever. Collaboration around data is really important, as there’s where some of the best ideas come from. The benefits for people to actually access it and use it to come up with new products or ways to make things better is underestimated. The importance of data, but also open data (data that is freely available and accessible to anyone, anywhere, regardless of intended purpose), is really a catalyst for how tourism can move forward. Some of the core tourism businesses within Scotland try to minimise that data, as they have a fear of how the data will be used which prevents them from doing something. But if both go into it with a very clear expectation of what you’re looking to use and how you’re looking to use it, it shouldn’t stop you from doing anything.

Myth 3: “A data strategy is too expensive”

There is always going to be cost associated with developing a data strategy, be it time or money. However, in the long run you will be able to achieve efficiencies and make improvements. The development of a website is probably the biggest initial cost, but also an ongoing one. For any new systems that you introduce, there will also be a training period and skills development within your own company to make sure you have the right people who can read the data, who can translate it into something useable. There are always going to be people who aren’t comfortable with being presented data, so learning how to put your data in an accessible way is probably one of the most interesting things you can learn. You can learn a lot more about your company when you do that, but it also makes it easier to translate that information to people that you need to convince or that you need to put your business case forward for.

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding Data in the Tourism Industry

Edinburgh Napier University