The 3 reasons why Business Intelligence rescues Tour Operators

The 3 reasons why BI saves Travel Companies

I had the pleasure and honor to work alongside Mr. Ioannis Hatziliamis, the legendary founder of Rodos Tours, one of the oldest DMCs of Colossus’s Island. Five minutes conversations with him had more value than a whole academic course, believe me. His was one of the better organized and managed incoming operators I have ever seen, and I owe him much if what I learnt about this trade. But, in spite of having his own large bus fleet, Mr Hatzilliamis had always the same problem during the high season months: vehicle and tour guide availability. Which translated in long delays at the airport for arriving passengers, or cancelled tours.
About five years later, in the early 2000’s, I was fortunate to work in Crete with Ibis el Greco, owned by another incoming luminary, Mr Yves Maebe. And, sure enough, we were experiencing the same bus and guide problem as mentioned above, only worsened by traffic jams.
Now, I don’t know if Mr. Hatziliamis or Mr. Maebe could sub-contract vehicles back then, or if they solved the problem at last. But for all their cleverness, experience and professionalism, they needed an indispensable aid to duck or reduce their profit losses: analytics. Not the tools, mind, as spreadsheets were available even on my Commodore 64 in the mid-eighties. No, what was missing back then was a mindset that would appreciate the importance of analyzing data to solve seemingly unsurmountable business problems. Who can blame those pioneers, anyway? There was enough trouble on a daily basis to even start thinking about collecting data…
Fast forward to 2018, and I still see exactly the same bus and tour guide issues, in many resorts. Yes, the culprit is always the same: a lack of a data-driven mindset, owing to an almost exclusive focus on day-to-day tasks. I can relate to that: why fix things that are already working? Why waste time on something that might or might not bring benefits to the company? It’s understandable, human nature at its best (and worst). But I bet that very nature makes you check your competitors’ rates twice a day, or ask around how many tours they sold, how many buses they had at the airport yesterday and the day before… Valuable information, of course, but not as much as your own, internally generated set of data.
So here’s the first reason why you need BI: To predict business needs, to forecast arrivals, to estimate upcoming profits and costs… In short, to foresee the company’s (and market) future.


This, and this reason alone, should be more than enough to embrace Business Intelligence right now. The answer to the question “What?”, more precisely “What will happen?” (predictive analytics), is paramount for any organization.
Still, owners and managers are way too obsessed by the “What happened?” question. That’s why they are constantly reviewing their (mostly financial) static reports. Yes, it is important to check current and past data to confirm if what was planned or forecasted actually materialized. However, it’s crucial to use past (and future) data to prepare for what’s next, to optimize resources, to plan ahead. I shouldn’t be telling you this, right? How come you’re still relying so much on balance sheets and sales reports, then?

Do yourself a favor and read a short article about adopting a data-driven culture >>



By looking at a sales report, you might notice a significant booking decrease from a certain client, but you’ll never be able to tell exactly why that happened, unless you can count your clients with the fingers on one hand. Either you ask the subject what’s going on, or you’ll have to dig inside your data. See where I’m going? Once you know what happened and why, you’ll be better positioned to take informed decisions, instead of going ahead with the usual hunches. Sure, educated guesses served you well so far… but do you truly expect them to outrank competitors that are using data power to crush you? You know very well that in this day and age everybody is selling the same stuff to everybody else, and price cannot be the differentiator (otherwise, everyone will be out of business in no time). So, either you get competitive advantage (impossible without data processing), or you keep guessing all the way through your trial & error dogmatic management. In the second scenario, though, you might as well forget about growth.
Assuming you went the data way, by knowing the “what” and “why” you’ll have -among other advantages- the opportunity to better allocate resources and place personnel where most needed, as well as improve operational aspects. As a matter of fact, you’ll be benefiting from prescriptive analytics, which would have been pure gold for my Greek friends back in the day, and helps in answering the next -most important- question.


You shouldn’t be performing clerical tasks. That’s why you hired workers, right? So why on Earth are you wasting their time and yours producing and perusing reports that are obsolete the moment they are created, then? I know scores of hotel, DMC and TO owners and managers who eagerly await their daily/weekly Excel reports. WTF? How can they decide on things to come by looking at columns and rows of numbers, at total figures? That kind of data tells you only “what happened” (past), and I am sure it doesn’t take rocket science (not even basic math) to let you infer that. Nope, once you found out the “whats” and “whys”, your office time should be commited to the devising of the “hows”: that is, to plan and act towards operational perfection and maximal earnings. In other words: focus on the important, ask the vital questions and put to use strategic analytics.
Can it be done by spreadsheeting the hell out of it? No, it can’t. No human being is capable of inferring trends and patterns from something like this:
searches 1
Now, what if I put together that alphanumeric mess into a couple of images, such as this?
Business Intelligence for Tour Operators and DMCs
Both pictures carry the same information. You can’t deny it: the second option would help you take better (and faster) decisions. Even if you could do something like that on Excel, why would you do it? Check the filters on the low right corner… Why waste a long time and effort to do something doable in two clicks, on any device?
There is no “intelligence” in BI if you employ outdated methods to process and visualize data, and the tool problem was solved long ago, with easy to use and affordable solutions for any kind (and size) of company. Like REVVA, just to throw a name.
The real need is to translate data into insightful information, which in turn will bring a deeper understanding of the company’s current situation, future standpoint, and possible strategic alternatives. But the real challenge is to kill rooted “analog” mindsets and act upon data insights.

Wrapping up

You might be thinking “heck, we’re a small company, we don’t have that much bookings / we addressed a niche” or something along those lines. Congratulations, at least you’re not a grumpy old fart that thinks data is tech crap (you wouldn’t be reading this, if that was the case). But, with all due respect, allow me to point out that you are wrong. I am willing to bet my second-best hat stating that at least one of your harder problems could be solved by data analysis. Think, and you’ll find there’s more than one!
All that remains true even if your business is a one-man-show.
Budget constraints and limited time are no excuse to avoid nurturing the data-driven mindset I mentioned all along. Even slight improvements in each business areas will greatly contribute to the general bottom line, in a virtuous circle that only data collection and processing can spawn. However, it’s useless to gather data and perform analytics, if you don’t take action over it.
I have no idea what happened to Rodos Tours and Ibis El Greco over the years, as I lost all contacts and they seem to be out of business today… but I’m ready to bet my best hat affirming that the lack of analytics had a heavy influence in their demise. Roll up your sleeves, then. Business intelligence will not rescue your company by itself.
Thanks for reading and sharing!
Marcello Bresin
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