Polarull Anne Adsten

Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism and Big Data

17 september, 2020
Text: Anne Adsten, JHT
Polarull på Mullfjället. Foto: Anne Adsten.
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Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism was contacted by a research team of Dania Academy – Center for Hospitality and Experience Economy, currently looking into how companies and organizations within the tourism and hospitality sector use Big Data in a strategic setting. During their search for literature and relevant company contacts in Europe with a fair amount of experience on the subject, they came across Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism. An interview was then made on September 1st 2020 with Anne Adsten, Tourism Developer of Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism. Since the recording of the interview failed the Q & A was made into the below article.

”Data mining” of Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism today – our experience of Big Data

Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism (JHT) does a lot of data collecting and produce reports on our webpage. Every year we collect everything we have derived over the last year and put it into one report “Facts of Tourism in Jämtland Härjedalen” which we print as well as produce as a pdf available on our webpage. The printed issue is distributed to the stakeholders of Jämtland Härjedalen. The member associations of JHT, the 8 communities of the region, the region, politicians and media.

Our “Data mining” includes:

  • Commercial guest nights (hotels, B&B, hostels, camping sites, cabins and apartments let by a firm or association). Data from SCB (Statistiska CentralByrån) is collected and modified into a monthly report as well as a final yearly report. Reports are available on https://jht.se/fakta-statistik/
  • Non-commercial guest nights (Staying with friends & relatives, wild camping, staying in a summer/winter house or lending it from someone). Data is collected through surveys or interviews and through models this data is calculated into a figure for the region as a whole.
  • Surveys also gives input into models for calculating average spend per guest/24h as well as number of employed within the tourism business (direct employment as well as indirect through businesses benefiting from tourism like bakeries, hairdressers etc), taxes (government verses regional taxes) derived from tourism, total revenue of tourism in the region.
  • Surveys are also used for understanding the guest needs. Winter verses summer in the region as these guests differ in where they come from, age, company, how they travel, how much they spend, who they are etc. Also national guests differ from international guests in what they search for in the tourism products on offer in the region Jämtland Härjedalen, Sweden. Modes of transportation also differs between summer and winter as the summer guest tend to do a round trip, and winter guests tend more to visit one destination and then go home. Summer tourism is however turning to the same kind of behavior – guests choosing to only visit one destination, as traditional winter destinations are being more open In the summer the last 10 years and are constantly developing their summer products – trails etc.
  • Surveys are also used for getting to know the general image of the region. Questions are asked both to guests with experience from the region as well as Swedes who have never visitited Jämtland Härjedalen.
    Our surveys are also used for getting to know how our guests tend to search for information before visiting and we know that hospitality with our present guests lead to future guests since recommendations derive from happy guests telling friends and relatives to visit Jämtland Härjedalen. Good information (visitor service, hospitality) makes guests stay longer, do more, become more happy with their vacation choices, get more inclined to recommend other to visit and are more likely to come visiting the region again in the future.
  • At Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism (JHT) we monitor world events as well as news from the tourism business and mix the most important influences (in our eyes) into a news letter sent to our subscribers once every three weeks. We monitor newsfeed through a company sending us reports derived from keywords set by JHT every morning and we try to monitor as much as possible manually in social media channels: facebook and Instagram.
  • JHT also keep track of AirBnB in the region. JHT does a report once a year from facts derived.

Data mining requests for the future

We would like to get extra data from other sources that aren´t yet fully available for us, such as:

  • Movement monitored by mobile phone companies which can give us information on how people travel to and within the region. We could then get a more clear picture on which roads guests are choosing to get to our destinations and we could see how much they travel within the region during their stay.
  • Credit cards could give us better information on average spend and what kind of purchases our guests are most likely to be interested in with more information from credit card companies.
  • Water & sewage. Could be used to see volumes in a certain destination in different periods. This could give us valuable information on whether people are increasing their use of winter/summer homes now during the pandemic etc. A hunch is that a lot of people take their work to their cabins/apartments at resorts instead of staying at home during the pandemic increasing the demand for things to do in the resorts before or after work hours. You could call this group “Corona refugees” increasing the demand for trails, nature reserves to visit and hence causing a demand for change in opening hours at resorts and also maintenance as well as increased medical needs in local communities as the number of injuries from biking accidents etc may increase (and therefore setting other demands for health care that are difficult to plan with new travel patterns).

Big Data from the Top of My Mind

When thinking about Big Data I think of the ability to make “Tailor Made Products” and “Big Brother is watching you”. Mixed emotions, but I am aware of the advantages of getting to know our guests better and with that information be able to provide better and more sustainable experiences.

Big Data on a Strategic Level

On a strategic level we always start with the things we do know about our guests and set our goals from this knowledge and form our action plans accordingly. Previously we have been very occupied with having the number of guests increasing whereas today we are more into getting the right type of guests who are willing to take care of our natural and cultural heritage and hence are more inclined to pay for a good experience rather than having mass tourism.

Examples of Tourism Companies using Big Data in the Region

One example is Skistar, the largest company for winter holidays in Sweden. They run two resorts in Jämtland Härjedalen: Åre and Vemdalen as well as a resort in Dalarna (Sälen), one in Norway (Trysil) and one in Austria (St Johann). Skistar are skilled at deriving Big Data from their customer´s behavior in all parts of the customer journey and use it systematically to develop their own products including apartments, cabins, ski lifts, ski & boot hire, ski apparel and more.

Åre Destination is the DMO of Åre and skilled at gathering both structured and unstructured data and forming both strategies and action plans accordingly. As is Destination Vemdalen, the destination company for tourism businesses in the Vemdalen area. Same goes also for Destination  Lofsdalen and their sister association for tourism companies in the Lofsdalen area forming EU connected development projects to develop trails in the area etc. Destination Östersund and Destination Funäsfjällen also work with Big Data to form strategies and action plans strategically. The smaller destinations and communities in the region also use Big Data for decision making, strategies and action plans, but not to the same extent as the larger destination organisations and the larger companies.

The connection between the 5 v:s of Big Data and how it affects a company´s strategy

The 5 V:s of Big Data are: Volume, Velocity, Variety, Veracity (inconsistencies in data), Value. The connection to us at JHT is that these five descriptions of data input will give better clues as to how a tourism company or association can achieve better sustainability, come better prepared for future events and have better chances at seeing their economy develop sustainably.

  1. Sustainability – at all levels, economically, ecologically and socially.
  2. Prepared – to come better prepared for events that aren´t always within the control of the specific company or association.
  3. Better economy: personel planning, purchases, vaste, right products in the right time.

The hospitality sector and the use of Big Data

In our opinion we see the hospitality sector special when it comes to using Big Data in the sense that we use large amounts of unstructured data to see tendencies in the development of tourism. Since there is now specific code for the hospitality business like there is for example for the automotive industry, the hospitality industry is on the contrary a part of many different lines of businesses as a part of transportation, a part of the food industry, a part of the entertainment industry etc, it is tricky to get structured data that are “exact” for the tourism industry.

What we use instead is a set of different models to calculate effects derived from tourism. Unstructured data is used to form the models and then known facts and figures are used as input to calculate for instance the total revenue of tourism in a certain area.

Areas within the tourism industry that use more Big Data than others

From the JHT point of view we can see that it is more common among larger destination companies and mountain resorts to use Big Data than singular tourism companies. Transportation companies like bus companies, air companies, train companies are also more into Big Data as a form of shaping future time tables and shaping the most efficient lines of traffic to and from a certain destination.

Companies that successfully use Big Data in their business model

All larger destinations of Jämtland Härjedalen do use Big Data to shape offers and information, products and in planning, both for members and guests. The larger destinations of Jämtland Härjedalen are Åre, Vemdalen, Funäsfjällen, Lofsdalen and Östersund.

The future of Big Data over the next 2-3 years

JHT see a further development of Big Data, increased understanding of what data can be used for and also increased refinement of data as more sources of data become available without invading the personal spheres of the guests.

Disruptions that slow down the development of Big Data

Discussions on how privacy is maintained for the singular guests can cause disruptions. As long as the singular guest is feeling a direct use and help from giving out data on themselves it is more ok in the eyes of the guest rather than the impression of data collection for the data´s sake. That is, if the guest feels he/she is helped in finding the right product he/she is looking for, then he/she don´t mind giving out personal data. You have to offer something valuable to the guest in order to access their data.

People will want to be a part of a certain tribe and are then more likely to give data access in order to be a part of that tribe. For instanse if you are into riding, you don´t mind cookies or giving out information in different situations to get the best offers regarding riding both in free time after work as well as during your vacation.

How companies will seek to integrate Big Data in their strategies and how they can do it

The easier it becomes to obtain data the more users will use it for their purposes, both for good and less good reasons. There is also the constant feed of media including social media that surrounds us at all hours, feeding us with information in the form of unstructured data. There is no way anyone can go through life without getting influenced and hence make decisions from the influence of this news feed.

By printing the booklet “Facts of tourism in Jämtland Härjedalen” we feel that we as a regional tourism office have opened up for a more convenient use of Big Data in regional decision making as well as for separate destinations and the singular tourism companies. We mail the printed booklets to our member destinations, politicians, local government officials and associates of JHT and feel that by doing so, we are a part of better decision making and increased sustainability in our region.

Reflections on Big Data

We feel that there is a tendency to make Big Data bigger than it really is, just like we do when it comes to the term “Innovations”. Big Data can be as simple as “Facts of tourism in Jämtland Härjedalen”, a collection of known facts and derived unstructured data for better understanding in the underlying processes regarding tourism and the hospitality business of this region and hence better decision making on all levels: in the singular tourism companies, in the DMO:s and in the local communities.

Innovations are just like that. If you record all questions from guests and requests that aren´t met with products in today´s destinations and direct it to the part most suitable, whether it is a local company that could use the input to form a new product or service, or whether it is the local community that can help shape a better destination. Combined with Big Data this can lead to some great decision making and progress in shaping tomorrow´s more sustainable tourism.

Wherever there is a system that can do a better job at collecting data in a more structured way, automatically, this will be a blessing. But, outcome will never be better than the input. Facts are never good without analysis. And analysis is never good without action.

A key person or organization may be of great help to get data analyzed and shape actions plans and also for making sure there is action on the outcome of the data derived. Such a key person or organization is often a part of a sustainable destination company, DMO.

Without a strong DMO or community that is willing to support tourism companies in an area to translate Big Data into strategies and action plans, development is more likely not to be sustainable and even stagnate.

Anne Adsten, Tourism Developer JHT

Anne Adsten
Anne Adsten , Tourism Developer, Jämtland Härjedalen Tourism
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