Big Data applied to the tourism sector: case study

Big Data applications are enormous and highly useful to society, companies, and governments. But sometimes it is difficult to find real examples of how Big Data is applied to “close” cases and that do not sound like science fiction.


RocaSaldavella and Telefónica have published the first tourism report in Spain carried out with Big Data, a real and eminently practical case that shows the infinite possibilities that Big Data use opens.

The “Big Data and tourism: new indicators for tourism management” study provides a new methodology for analysing and knowing better the Spanish tourism sector. The studied gather together and crossed data about card payments and mobile phone user mobility between the 7th and 21st of October, 2012, in Madrid and Barcelona: Telefónica facilitated data from foreign terminals that used their infrastructure during said period in both cities, and BBVA the data for electronic payments by foreign cards transmitted through their bank terminal network.

It is worth noting that the analysis was performed on anonymous, aggregated and subsequently extrapolated data through statistical processes. This procedure, in addition to strictly fulfilling corresponding laws regarding data protection and general telecommunications, definitively prevents any individual from being identified from the data utilised, thereby guaranteeing user privacy.

But, what is anonymisation of data? It is a process consisting of eliminating data or meta data that directly or via correlations with other sources, enables identification of the data owner without too much effort. These mechanisms enable highly valuable statistical data to be used that originally included identifying information about the owner. Once said information has been eliminated, the data becomes “anonymous” and user privacy is fully guaranteed.
Conclusions from this study allow us to form a pretty clear perception about the origin of these tourists, the length of their stay, factors that affect the length of stay –the tourists’ origin, if they arrive on a weekday or not–, the type of accommodation different nationalities prefer by location and category, average spending and spending on accommodations.

One of the added values of this study for the tourism sector is that the conclusions obtained are based on real activity, rather than surveys or declarations of intent, as are other current studies carried out to date about Tourism in Spain.  This new methodology increases knowledge about the sector’s objective public via real behavioural data generated by tourists themselves.  This specific case has enabled the creation of tactical and strategic recommendations directed towards hotel operators with the purpose of increasing customer acquisitions and determining in which countries it would be best to focus marketing activities, as well as to determine areas of the city to perform commercial operations –particularly those related to accommodation– and to guarantee an attractive product adapted to the clients’ needs (optimal length for package stays, information related to additional requested offers according to nationality...).

Big Data possibilities are unlimited, yet to guarantee maximum potential development, and that of the Digital Economy, it is necessary to foster an attitude of data sharing among clients: generating Digital Trust is a task shared between all the actors in the Internet value chain.