How Can Hospitality Companies Harness the Power of Big Data?

June 26, 2024
Reading Time: 5 minutes

In this article, we’ll outline why data hygiene and governance are crucial in keeping your customers and business protected.


“Without big data analytics, companies are blind and deaf, wandering out onto the web like deer on a freeway.”

– Geoffrey Moore

This quote was uttered over a decade ago, but is more relevant than ever today. As the world has become more digital and mobile, the amount of data shared has exploded. In fact, it’s estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated each day, a number that is expected to continue growing.  And although the transmission of data remains high, hospitality companies have historically been behind the curve with regard to data technology and management. To succeed in an increasingly data-heavy future, hoteliers and agency partners need to ensure that their data are properly structured and management practices are optimized.


What exactly is big data?

First thing’s first – what do we mean when we say “big data?”

Big data can be defined as large collections of data that grow over time, with complexities in volume, velocity, and variety. More and more businesses – including those in hospitality – are collecting customer data, usage trends, and more, leading to an exponential increase in the flow of data.

Once receiving all of that data, businesses need to put it to work. Many hoteliers and agencies are taking advantage of this information in their day-to-day processes, helping them innovate in both customer service and internal processes.

Personalized guest experience

Personalization continues to be important to consumers, so much so that companies can generate as much as 40% more revenue due to personalized experiences. This doesn’t always mean fully-customized experiences for each customer – sometimes simple integrations and interactions can provide a world of difference for travelers, such as:

  • Saved stay preferences: Does a guest prefer a cold room rather than a warm one? King bed versus a queen size? First floor or top floor? Keeping track of these preferences can help planners and hotels make travel more comfortable for their guests, leading to higher satisfaction.
  • Activity recommendations: The more complete a traveler’s customer profile, the more you can provide recommendations for activities in the locations they are traveling to. This could mean providing restaurant lists for people traveling around birthdays and anniversaries, or theme park packages for those traveling with children.
  • Feedback and customer service: As much as we would like for each customer interaction to be optimal, there are instances where service levels come up short. When receiving specific feedback from customers about a past experience, keeping a record of the issue and resolution is crucial to ensure the clients’ future expectations are exceeded. For example, if a property is given feedback that a room wasn’t fully cleaned upon arrival, they can schedule a deeper clean in advance of the customer’s next visit to show they’ve internalized the feedback.

Monitoring inventory and resources

Aside from customer experience, data is also heavily used by other departments to ensure they’re optimizing:

  • Staffing levels: Maintaining appropriate staff levels is already a balancing act, but when unexpected events or scenarios arise, the impact can be magnified. With a robust dataset, you can review performance surrounding specific dates or events and staff appropriately, ensuring customer experience isn’t affected.
    (Note: If staffing is a consistent challenge, partnerships can help mitigate challenges. Onyx frequently helps hotels and agencies free up headcount by taking on administrative tasks associated with commission payments).
  • F&B spending: Overspending on food and beverages is a common challenge, but coming up short when inventory is needed can also cause issues. By keeping track of purchase trends – for example, how often specific items are ordered or how often food rushes occur – companies can ensure they purchase what’s needed without resulting in unnecessary waste.


The importance of data hygiene

With so much data at your business’ fingertips, it’s imperative that the data is stored, structured, and managed properly. In order to do that, there must be an ongoing data hygiene process in place. Data hygiene is an ongoing process of cleaning collected data to help maintain accuracy and integrity. This includes standardizing naming, removing duplicates and more. This ensures you’re receiving the benefits of having data, while helping mitigate many of the consequences that come along with bad data.

Avoid regulatory compliance challenges

The free-flow of information has led some parties to misuse data, but thankfully many governments and agencies have put regulations in place to help protect consumer information. Regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) include specific guidelines for businesses to follow to remain compliant with regard to protecting client information they collect. And while consumer protection is a net positive for all, the requirements for compliance with regulations can be extensive. By having a proper data management and hygiene process in place, your business can quickly confirm that data is housed and treated correctly, while also being able to note anomalies so they can be corrected.

Reduce risk of breaches

Data breaches are an unfortunate occurrence as data collection becomes more widespread. And although data breaches in the hospitality industry tend to have a smaller financial impact, the aftermath is damaging nonetheless. So how does data hygiene impact your breach risk?

  • Store only what you need: One aspect of cleansing is determining what data should be removed from your database. By adhering to a specific cleaning and sunsetting process, you’ll help decrease exposure for potential breaches.
  • Identify issues early: It takes an average of 204 days for companies to identify a data breach. With proper storage and management practices in place, businesses can determine when breaches occur earlier, helping minimize the impact.

By protecting your customers’ data, you’ll end up with happier customers who will likely reward your diligence with repeat business.

Enhance operational efficiency

A great deal of both front- and back-office work is dependent on the availability and accessibility of data. When users have to search in multiple areas to find information they need, it leads to decreased productivity and lost revenue. Keeping your data properly structured with standardized conventions can help ensure users find what they need when they need it.

As we’ve seen, reliance on data has a direct impact on the bottom line, so in addition to cleaning and managing data, what can you do to make sure the data you acquire best sets you up for success?

  • Consider utilizing direct data feeds to collect information: Feeding data directly from one source to your database can be a huge help in maintaining data hygiene. Aside from minimizing data entry errors, direct feeds – for example, API connections – help provide complete data stories and can flag missing or incomplete data when transfers are initiated.
  • Regularly review and audit your data and processes: Having a procedure in place to monitor how data enters, is stored, and is managed is crucial. But it’s also important to regularly check to make sure the process still meets business and regulatory needs. In addition, incorporating a plan to purge unneeded data helps streamline your datasets and minimizes exposure risks.
  • Review regulations to ensure compliance: It’s always a good idea to review the regulations in the regions in which you do business. Staying on top of the proper processes and requirements will keep your team agile so that, in the event of changes, you’ll be prepared to make updates to remain compliant.
  • Engage partners to assist: Often, business partners will request data to be structured in a way that ensures an optimal flow of data and easy matching. These setups are helpful in introducing streamlined data processes and can assist in keeping your data clean and easily accessible. For example, Onyx works closely with clients to structure datasets so data is easily transferred to allow for efficient payment and receipt of commissions. Because we set clients up for success, we’re not only able to quickly manage commissions – we’re also able to provide performance and benchmarking insights via our OnyxInsights solution. Keeping the data clean helps customers and Onyx alike, resulting in a win-win for all parties.


Interested in finding out more about how Onyx uses data to provide value to clients and the industry? Reach out to us today.

Knut Erik Rief joined Onyx in 2014 and is the VP, Product Management for Core Products in the transient commissions space. He has 20+ years of experience in the travel industry focused on revenue management, product management and business strategy within the hospitality and airline sectors.