Travel can be transformed by the explosion of data if businesses rise to the challenge of utilising it, according to IBM’s Dee Waddell.

“There is so much opportunity to transform this industry, to transform business outcomes through empowerment of employees with data, processes and tools and breaking down silos,” said the computer giant’s global managing director for travel and transportation.

Waddell will carry this message to Abta’s Travel Convention in Tokyo in October. Yet he will also highlight the challenge for industry players, saying: “Until now, data has been segmented across business functions and different brands.

“Companies can transform their business processes, using data to make decisions, better understand customer behaviour and create more‑personalised experiences. [But] companies need to examine all their data.”

Waddell said: “Travel and transportation are subject to financial pressure and competition from online providers such as Amazon and Google, and revenue performance is most on the minds of chief executives.”

He told Travel Weekly: “Travel companies have a major advantage in the proprietary data and decades of industry expertise [they have]. But sometimes the industry does not maximise the value of all the pieces.”

Waddell insisted: “Data is not just for data’s sake. It’s an opportunity to use artificial intelligence [AI] for targeting [consumers] so travel companies can compete with the likes of Amazon and Google.”

He said: “Connected travellers expect companies to use mobile apps, targeted advertising, social media, predictive analytics and travel perks to deliver a seamless and special experience.

“Collecting customer data and securely mining it for information can make it easier for employees to do their jobs and develop a loyal customer base. The key is to make better use of data.

“By putting the right data in employees’ hands at the right time, companies can empower staff to make faster decisions, do their jobs better and enhance collaboration.”

Waddell has worked at IBM for four years but describes himself as “a long‑time travel industry person” having worked in a variety of chief information and chief digital officer roles and as director of e‑commerce at United Airlines. He will provide one of the keynote presentations at the convention.

Waddell tips role in travel for blockchain

Blockchain is a component of this digital transformation “because of its security and traceability”.

That is the view of IBM lead on travel and transport Dee Waddell.

He said: “We partnered with Travelport to create a blockchain and are testing how to monetise this.

“We see new business models developing around distribution and loyalty, and opportunities in maintenance, in creating a platform for manufacturers’ parts.”

He added: “In the shipping industry, we’re part of a network developing visibility of containers in transit and tracking workflow.”

The Travel Convention, October 7-9, Tokyo;