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KM EARNS “STAR RATING” in travel, transportation markets

This article appears in the issue June 2016 [Volume 25, Issue 6]
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Knowledge management is critical to success for smaller specialty firms in the travel and transportation industries.

Andrew Harper, a full-service travel agency specializing in luxury excursions with various travel partners, most notably luxury hotels, had numerous databases to collect various travel information from its partners, the users of its website, travel agents and travel newsletters. The only way to compile meaningful data, however, was for Robert Davila, VP of research, to pull information from all of the different databases and then attempt to stitch it together.

Producing reports was time-consuming, and by the time the information was analyzed, the data itself was stale. “It was a huge endeavor just to pull everything down. I knew there had to be software available to do this,” Davila says. He spent several months looking at different solutions and after considering several options, he chose Sisense. Improvement was quickly apparent after Davila started using the solution in  January 2015.

“Sisense synchs all of the databases every night,” Davila says. “We can see where our customers are traveling, the hotels where they are staying and the tours that they are going on.”

Unlike the larger travel firms like Priceline, according to Davila, Andrew Harper uses the knowledge brought together by Sisense to target a specific set of travelers. The average Andrew Harper client spends $60,000 a year on travel. Davila says, “They are looking for luxury hotels, out of the way places.”

Andrew Harper uses that data in a variety of ways. Marketing uses it to recommend different properties and itineraries. Proactive marketing has become crucial because the targeted travelers are spending more time planning their trips, according to Davila. Marketing information and other data are shared with business partners for their usage.

Andrew Harper has already found success with the new solution. In addition to the time Davila saves, the firm enjoyed a 20 percent increase in bookings in 2015. “It’s very intoxicating,” Davila says. “I’m constantly getting requests for new dashboards. You have to be careful about how much you go after.”

There are still several untapped uses for the technology, Davila adds.

Improved document management, audit trails

Knowing the location of documents is another challenge that faces the hospitality industry. Serena Group, which includes 36 luxury resorts, safari lodges and hotels in East Africa and Central and South Asia, needed a better way to manage its document workflow at its Serena Pakistan property, the second largest in its portfolio.

“Paper-based filing systems allow paper documents to reside in only one place at a time,” explains Salome Ndinda Kiteme, Serena Group records manager. “To share documents, office workers generally had to make their own copies and file them for future reference. The average document gets copied 10 times, and many of these copies also get filed. Of course, this would increase the amount of paperwork one would handle at his or her desk.”

The workflow was further hampered by the time needed to find and retrieve documents. “In a situation where the information contained in a document is required immediately to respond to a customer request, the delay may cause customer dissatisfaction,” Kiteme says. And hotel personnel wasted more time refiling the paper documents, which could get lost in the process.

Another issue with the paper-based system was that it was a security risk, because unauthorized personnel could easily gain access to sensitive documents. So 18 months ago, the company installed Rio from Laserfiche, an enterprise document management system that offers advanced capture and workflow with full-text indexing and metadata-based searching. The search feature and integration with Microsoft Office means that authorized users can quickly find the files they need, Kiteme says. Rio offers a full audit trail, enabling hotel executives to keep track of who has accessed to and who is accessing specific documents, as well as how and when they are accessed.

“It’s a very user-friendly system,” Kiteme says. “It met our needs much better than other systems.”

The cost savings are impressive, adds the records manager, who estimates it takes six minutes to retrieve a paper document. A hotel might need to retrieve as many as 100 documents per day for customers, accounting, human resources and others. That would require a total of 10 employee hours spent per day. Based on a Serena Pakistan worker’s wages and benefits, the total cost savings is $31,500 annually, not including the overhead for storing and filing old documents.

Kiteme expects to derive additional benefits after everyone is on board with the new system and no longer relying on paper documents.

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