A couple of decades ago, people planning trips might make calls to their travel agents or head to libraries to check out destination guides. Now, it's more likely for travel planning to happen online. People can book hotels, download boarding passes, make itineraries and more, just by going online.
Data centers help make such progress happen. Consider that the Amadeus Data Centre, a dedicated facility for travel industry clients, dealt with the boarding information of more than 747 million passengers in 2016.
Here are four ways data centers affect the travel sector:
When people talk about passports being powerful, they mean how easy it is for holders to visit countries without obtaining visas first. Getting such permission for travel can take months, which makes it difficult for the residents of some nations to plan spontaneous trips. Usually, people submit the required paperwork, then get physical documents to present to immigration officers.
However, some countries are moving towards an electronic visa process. Thailand is one of the places with an e-visa program. People who need to travel to Thailand and require visas can submit their documents through an online portal and use a tracker to determine the status of applications in progress.
Successful applicants get an electronic code in a PDF to give authorities. They can even pay extra for an express service that provides a visa decision and the required document within 24 hours.
This system eliminates the waiting times associated with sending things through the mail and anticipating responses through the same method. Data centers facilitate this new way of applying for visas and remove some of the hassles people often expect.
The travel industry is booming, and it's largely due to the internet. A market research report forecasts a 12% combined annual growth rate (CAGR) for 2017-2023. Recently, Airbnb capitalized on the success of HotelTonight and acquired the company. Airbnb executives undoubtedly recognized how HotelTonight worked hard to differentiate itself within the market.
HotelTonight appeals to people who want to make last-minute bookings and often advertises same-day deals. Moreover, it has a loyalty program that offers people progressively bigger discounts as the amount they spend on the site increases. Data centers are instrumental in making perks like that possible. They allow brands to set up secure systems that track people's interactions and reward them accordingly.
Of course, loyalty programs alone aren't responsible for the success of the travel sector, and they existed before online booking sites. But, incentives like the ones HotelTonight offers give travelers reasons to choose certain travel booking sites over others.
Virtual reality (VR) has recently moved from a niche technology into the mainstream. VR experiences require five times the bandwidth of high-definition TV, plus low latency to prevent the content from freezing or becoming jerky. Then, since the material a person sees responds to how they move, data centers process the information sent and received by the VR platform.
Travel brands have gradually moved into the VR space, and data centers helped them do it. Some set up promotional booths and encouraged people to see what it's like to explore a remote island destination or stay in a luxury hotel room. Others offer VR entertainment to passengers during flights, as a Korean budget airline is doing in a trial.
VR is a data-intensive technology, and there are likely plenty of other ways the travel sector could use it. Data centers' computing capabilities let brands explore the options.
Despite these positive impacts of data centers on the travel industry, there are some negative ones, too. Airlines depend on data centers in numerous ways. Some let their passengers check in for their flights online, and others have dedicated apps that give passengers details about meal offerings, in-flight movies and flight conditions.
But, when airlines deal with data center outages, those conveniences become unavailable. Sometimes, the problem is not directly due to a data center outage, but it happens because an airline doesn't have the supporting infrastructure in place to allow systems to keep operating after catastrophes. Such an incident occurred when Delta suffered a $150 million loss due to a five-hour power outage at its operations center.
According to a representative, the brand had invested in improvements to prevent such problems, but they did not work as expected. This example shows how, in addition to choosing a reliable data center provider, brands need to have backup power systems in place. Following another data center shortcoming, British Airways settled a lawsuit with its data center provider. That outage happened in 2017 during a holiday weekend.
Outside of the airlines that rely on data centers to help them check-in passengers or do other essentials, pilots use data too. In April 2019, a technical issue with a service that provides information about a plane's weight and other critical data delayed 780 flights operated by numerous airlines. Then, the failure of a highly specialized tool used by multiple companies had significant consequences.
Even when things go wrong, data centers assist travel companies from meeting needs that would otherwise be impossible. This trend will continue as data center technologies improve.
Kayla Matthews writes about data centers and big data for several industry publications, including The Data Center Journal, Data Center Frontier and insideBIGDATA. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follower her personal tech blog at ProductivityBytes.com.