Interview with Charlie Ballard from TripAdvisor

This blog post is part of the Big Data Week Speaker interviews series. Enjoy reading!

Why is it important for businesses in your industry to be more data driven nowadays?

Especially in the world of travel, where capital investments are high and yet consumers are fickle, it is vital to the survival of any firm to understand as possible everything they can about how demands are shifting across the globe.

What are the main challenges a company encounters when trying to leverage their data?

The primary challenges always remain:

  1. Accessibility: “Do I have the financial and technical resources necessary to get at the data?”
  2. Knowhow: “Do I have the experience and skill available to not only access the data, but analyze and present it in a way that allows the relevant stakeholders to make key decisions?”
  3. Quality: “Do I have the expertise to know which data is usable, which should be thrown out, and how to clean it all?”
  4. Support: “Do I have the backing of the executive team to apply the data and make meaningful decisions for the company?”
  5. Trust: “If trying to use my data externally, is my brand trusted enough that potential customers / clients will believe in the numbers?” “If being used internally do other stakeholders believe in the skills of my team?”
  6. Privacy: “Am I making sure to only use the data in a way that protects the privacy of the users, and am I only adding new dimensions to the data that are absolutely necessary without overreaching anyone’s personal privacy?”

How do you see the impact of big data in the travel field?

There is literally nothing that’s more important to the future of the travel industry than the ability to access and understand big data trends across a variety of travel stages, from inspiration to consideration to booking to travelling to reviewing.

What do you foresee as being the growing big data challenge you will face in your role over the coming 3 years, and how are you preparing to face it?

In addition to simply being able to access and analyze the data, the challenge will always be around how to scale insights and findings in response to high demand, while at the same time ensuring the growth is also healthy for the overall business.

Can you give us a sneak peek into your talk at the “Big Data in Use” Conference | Big Data Week London 2016?

TripAdvisor & constant change: building relationships by applying big data 

The world of travel is changing more rapidly than ever before, as consumers are inspired by low costs and social media to fly further away, more often, and for longer stays, and in general see more of the world.

This is all in addition to massive changes on the supply side with the rise of the sharing economy, downward price pressure and increased demand for diversification.

With the travel industry in such flux, long-term strategic planning can be an incredible challenge for any travel company. How can the travel industry predict ‘the next big thing’? With such global travellers how does a hotel know where to invest next? What trending data can be safely relied on in this market?

As the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor is in a unique position to help the world’s travel industry better understand and react to these changes, but how does TripAdvisor play a role when its primary mission has always been to provide a voice to the traveller?

What is the value of the consumer data, what are the risks, and what are the potential benefits in terms of enhancing partner relationships? Let’s discuss this at Big Data Week Conference on October 27.

Who do you think should attend your talk at Big Data Week? Why?

Anyone with interest in understanding how and why the travel industry continues to grow, where it’s growing fastest, and how a large travel firm in the middle of it all is thinking about how to use data to enhance their partner relationships.


Charlie begcharlie-ballard-600x431an working with consumer data at Forrester Research in Boston, just in time to witness the dotcom crash of 2001, before switching to lead agency measurement and analytics with multiple global clients including General Motors, American Express, AT&T, BT, Fidelity and Comcast. After receiving his MBA in 2012, at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Charlie joined BT’s MBA Leadership Programme as an internal consultant before most recently moving to TripAdvisor in 2013 in his current role of Director of Customer Insights.

Now based out of London, Charlie today works to help TripAdvisor and its clients make the most of all available forms of travel research, using TripAdvisor’s own data to help the world’s largest travel companies stay current with global traveller trends.


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