Travel firms were challenged over whether they are ready for customers to allow them to use more information about them in return for customised products and services.

Speaking on the opening day of the Abta Travel Convention in Abu Dhabi, Thimon De Jong, director of WHETSON/Strategic Foresight, said the You Know Me Society is coming.

“What would you do if you knew everything about your customers, not just a little? What would that mean for the strategy of your organisation? Because that’s where we are going.”

De Jong pointed to US start-up Crystal which has produced an algorithm which analyses people’s digital profiles to provide personality reports.

He said it can use available online data and offline data to create a profile of someone and then allow you to match people who are like-minded.

He said research has shown that algorithms are better at assessing people’s personas than their close friends and family.

Business consultants McKinsey use a similar tool called afiniti to enable firms to route calls to call centres based on a personality match of the caller.

“That means you get someone on the other end of the phone who’s just like you. It increases revenues, provides better customer experience and reduces costs.

De Jong said work he has done with Vodafone internationally shows people are prepared to give more information about themselves as long as they get a more customised service.

“What we are doing right now is customisation based on past behaviour. Where we are going is predicting behaviour, opinion mining, sentiment analysis,” he said.

This promises a future in which leading online players like Google or Facebook will know people are primed to buy a holiday before even they consciously know it themselves.

“The shift is that customers will be saying to you is ‘come on I want you to use my data, I want you to customise’. Ask me for my consent and here is a little bit more data.

“Are we ready when that question from our customers comes?”

De Jong warned about device addiction saying it has now entered the realm of mental health and said the travel industry was an example of a counter trend of digital detoxing.

And he said that firms should also beware short-term mania preventing them from engaging in more strategic, conscious, long-term thinking.

“We live in an age of distraction, an impulse society, but when you are bored you do your best thinking. When was the last time you were bored?

“This is a piece of free advice – get bored.”

De Jong told delegates that in an age of increasing distrust it was important that firms reward people who have a long-term impact on performance.

“Short-term is sexy, disruption is sexy. Disruption is very cool. Is long-term thinking sexy? No, but we have to make it as sexy. We have to balance the long with the short-term.”