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FOCUS on Data: Building a better offering

10 Jul 2017  By Paul Yandall

In the first article of our week-long series, FOCUS on Data, the Ticker hears from Chris Roberts, chief executive of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, about filling the ‘insight gap’ with the industry-led initiative, Tourism Insight Framework.

Chris Roberts

Tourism might be an industry built on relationships but it is also one increasingly hungry for data-driven insight, according to Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
Supporting that insight, the tourism data and the suppliers of that data – whether government agencies or commercial companies – are set to play an increasingly important role in the sector.
“There is a lot of data out there but none of it does us any good if we fail to interpret it and actually get some insight out of it,” says TIA chief executive Chris Roberts.
TIA’s Tourism Insight Framework, an industry-led initiative set to launch in November, hopes to fill that ‘insight-gap’ by determining not only what data-driven insight the industry needs but also who can deliver it.
“That won’t necessarily be the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) or Stats NZ or any other government agency. There are increasing sources of private sector insight that could be more useful for us,” says Roberts.
“Private sector providers like Qrious or Geozone are at the leading edge of using big data to produce information and their ability to tap new sources of data is quite exciting.”
Roberts likens the current state of New Zealand’s tourism data offering to a pyramid: at the top is a relatively small amount of data that is both accessible and useable by most businesses; below that is a data layer any good analyst can understand.
“And below that is a huge block of data, the biggest part of the pyramid, that only a handful of experts understand,” says Roberts. “We want to invert that pyramid so that much, much more data is available and understandable to tourism operators.”
Although the final form of the Tourism Insight Framework is still being determined – what it will collect and deliver – one issue will need to be overcome: even if a new tool is fashioned out of the Framework, it does not mean it will be adopted by industry.
Tourism, after all, is an industry built around relationships and an operator would naturally devote resources to maintaining a relationship with a wholesaler in, say, Germany, who keeps sending customers to them, rather than a data tool that may have some insight into that market.
MBIE’s NZ Tourism Dashboard is a trove of information, especially useful for those comfortable navigating datasets and graphs but lacks a layer of insight that may have put off many in the industry from adopting it wholeheartedly, says Roberts.
Take-up has not been particularly strong for TIA’s own Domestic Growth Insight Tool (DGIT), which was launched last year. DGIT allows users to search its database to reveal activity and accommodation preferences, as well as the preferred time of year and motivation for a trip.
“We get incredibly positive feedback from almost everyone who is using DGIT,” says Roberts. “Would we like to see more take-up? Yes, although it’s hard for us to know exactly how well it’s being taken up but we will keep pushing it and we are asking the regional tourism organisations  to keep pushing it out to members too.”
Tourism may not be the most natural of industries to jump on the latest bit of insight from a data tool but there are a lot of very smart operators out there, adds Roberts.
“They are using the latest tools available to them and are adjusting their marketing and their products based on the latest information from the tools.”
The Tourism Insight Framework is scheduled for launch at the Tourism Summit Aotearoa in Wellington in November.

Tomorrow on FOCUS on Data, we begin our profiles of the commercial suppliers of data to the tourism sector.

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