By Kerry Hayes & Catherine Bower.

Growth in the travel and tourism sectors is being hindered by inadequate data collection, inefficient data analysis and a lack of collaboration by key stakeholders.

Because of the complex nature of the aviation industry and because different sectors have been working in silos, the industry has stagnated instead of innovating to meet new challenges and respond to disrupters.

This was one of the insights that arose at the recent Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (Barsa) Summit at the Inanda Club in Johannesburg.

In her opening address, June Crawford, Barsa CEO, said there were too many sources of data for the travel industry, and the data being collected was not being used to its full potential.

Speaking with an outbound travel hat, Mary Shilleto, outgoing CEO of Thompsons Travel, said it was crucial for the industry to be quicker in dealing with data. “We talk about all this data that we are slow in mining – we should be doing this first and foremost where we can be predictive about our customers’ movements.” She stressed that the industry generated this data but did not do enough with it.

As a possible solution to this problem, Fundi Sithebe, Acsa Chief Operating Officer, called for the creation of an ‘innovation hub’.

Sithebe said industry players – airlines, agents, tech providers and so on – should come together under one roof to address the needs of the industry. This suggestion was noted as a key outcome from the day’s events. “Our maturity levels around innovation are varied, which holds us back,” said Sithebe. Collaboration across large and small business, government, private sector and regulatory bodies would be a way to even this out, she said.

Crawford urged the audience to use the information collected to innovate and give travellers what they wanted before they knew they wanted it. “Technology is changing how customers interact with brands. We have to adapt to avoid being left behind.”