Babel of data: Why the tourism industry needs common standards

Everyone is collecting data, but hardly anyone is using it. This slumbering potential can only be fully utilised with common standards and a common language. The latest GDI study describes what this could mean for the tourism industry.

This text is an excerpt from the GDI study "Out and About With Smart Assistants – A scenario for travelling in the future".

The more data converges, the more valuable an individual data point becomes. In order for data to converge, it must be mutually compatible. In other words, it has to use the same standards and language – like HTML code. With a universal standard format for tourist data, smart assistants and app programmers might be able to use existing data more efficiently and obtain substantial data with little effort.

If all data is open and conforms, it will also be available to providers like TripAdvisor. It is even conceivable service providers (such as hotels) would only have to enter information about their offerings once for it to be available for use by all possible third parties. The goal is not to set up a common website or Swiss-wide app, but to achieve a common language that will enable data from myriad sources to converge. That point of convergence could be a smart assistant belonging to a customer.

The example of can give us an idea of what a common language might look like. This platform does not use the tourist data itself, but makes it available to all interested parties in accordance with the logic of Open Data. For example, someone can program an app that shows all restaurants where movies were filmed.

Even sharing data about customers is possible, and doesn’t necessarily have to contravene data protection laws. Outside data analysts might well recognise patterns within this aggregated data, but they would not be able to find out precisely what they are. The individual service providers, however, would know which data points are connected among the encrypted data, so they could recognise connections through referring to their own unencrypted data.

Service providers don’t just have to recognise the advantage of using common standards. It also has to be madeeasy for them to implement such standards. To this end, it would be possible to build application programming interfaces (APIs) for existing restaurant and hotel software, for example, which would convert the data they  hold into the right format. Alternatively, a new software package could be developed and distributed – free of charge – that would maintain the correct format from the beginning, and make it simple  for service providers to make their own data available.