India lags behind several countries in attracting international tourists. Is there a ‘Big Data’ solution that can help us?
The present NDA government believes accelerating the tourism industry in the country can serve as a catalyst for faster economic growth and creating large scale employment. Towards this vision it has recently implemented Visa on Arrival for tourists from a large number of counties, hoping that the measure will increase inbound visitors.
While India has never stopped receiving a regular influx of tourists from across the world, it still lags behind in fulfilling its potential of attracting many more international visitors. According to latest data available, tourism arrivals in India till May 2015 clocked 511,000 while China in comparison received 1.8 million visitors. Even a tiny country like South Korea managed a whopping 1.3 million arrivals while United Arab emirates could attract over 4 Million Tourists
One of the most pertinent reasons of very fast and highly successful development of United Arab Emirates as a Tourist destination in the last two decades is the very intelligent and extremely smart way of using appropriate information for building various Tourism infrastructure
Though there are several reasons why India has not been able to keep pace with these countries, one of the major reasons that has been pointed out time and again is the inherent lack of analysis based on data that can put the state and Central government on the right policy track. So, while the Ministry of Tourism estimates that there are more than 8700 hotels at 54 prime locations across the country with a total room supply of about 174000, we have not been able to put this infrastructure into full use. Even the existing nearly 6000 travel trade companies and firms comprising tour operators, travel agents and tourist transporters could do with a ‘pick-me-up’ formula.
It is not as that serious efforts, including cash consuming ones, have not been made in the past by various governments and other agencies, it is obvious that strategic decision makers have been groping in the dark in the absence of felicitous information
And why was there this lack of data? Primarily due to the very unorganized nature of our tourism sector where functions are played out by various agencies comprising private and public providers. This makes it extremely challenging to have an integrated data set encompassing the right information from various stake holders. The number of providers, their types and geographical spread along with a whole lot of facilitators add to the very complex nature of acquiring a consolidated and timely information gathering system. From here it logically follows that a pertinent reason for the absence of rationale direction for policy makers is the lack of relevant information backed by data.
So, what is the solution that can provide a clear policy direction and help grow the sector? It lies in the adoption of a smart integrated data analytics platform using the various digital infrastructure. Such a platform should not only be able to aggregate data provided by various tourism providers, visitors and social networks. It should also have the forte to intelligently analyze the data to identify patterns and anomalies which shall facilitate in data driven policy decisions and implementations.
The very dynamic and real time nature of such a smart data analytics platform can eventually cater to successful tourist life cycle management, which in turn will obviously enhance the experience of the tourist.
This platform should be contextually designed and developed by a talent pool consisting of tourist industry professionals, Data scientist, Technology experts and policy makers. It will help the agencies monitor and make decisions about the potential and challenges faced by various stakeholders in the tourism sector, say for instance tourism infrastructureplanning or tourist operators facilitation etc.
It is true that for a country as large as India the complexity of such a platform is challenging. However, recent progress in Data science and Data engineering along with the large pool of talent we have in this field makes India the best place for developing and implementing such a Big Data analytics platform for the tourism sector.
So, how can we go about it? The platform can only be developed in phases where one phase follows the other. First, we would need an integrated cloud based system to collect data from tourist resorts, hotels, motels and other tourism accommodation providers. Second, we would be required to capture real time relevant data including social media data pertaining to tourism visitors. Third, it would be necessary to conduct trends, patterns, advanced analytics and inferences using the data, and lastly would be the real job –- of dynamic and real time reporting of analytics for decision management deployment.
To attain an efficient platform, its business and technology architecture needs to be articulated with utmost coherence, making certain that all aspects have been covered or taken into consideration. This technology architecture would be developed by putting in place a well articulated integration of Cloud, Analytics and Social media using the popular and equally efficient open source technology components.
To conclude, if the vision is to reshape the Indian tourism sector in a big way, the best bet to implement Big Data Analytics Digital platform. This fact based decision support system could go a long way in transforming tourism management and bringing in international tourists in much larger numbers.
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