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Selfie-driven big data only as good as the brains that mine it

In an age awash with hashtagged selfies, the tourism industry has been quick to leap on the data-mining bandwagon. But there’s still room for improved analytics to deliver more meaningful intelligence, says Deakin Business School’s Quan Vu.

Travel market research used to rely on hotel surveys and airline booking trends. In the Insta-age, where a holiday is not a holiday without multiple hashtagged selfies, tourism analysts have access to a virtual Grand Canyon of data ready for analysis (insert greedy face emoji). 

For Dr Quan Vu, this mass of data is still only as valuable as the brains who mine it. While new technological tools and data analysis methods are always being developed, there is often a lag to tourism industry application.

“There is so much travel data out there now, due to the rise of social media. Yet because of the gap between cutting edge data mining techniques and their translation to industry use, the intelligence drawn from all this data is not as meaningful or accurate as it should be,” Dr Vu said.

“At its best, data mining is sophisticated and nuanced, it can drill down and lead to highly precise and valuable intelligence for marketers and business managers. At its worst, it can result in poor quality data that creates more problems than it solves.”

Dr Vu has spent the past five years conducting research in the area of social media data analytics in tourism marketing and management. Much of his award-winning work has focused on novel approaches to discovering and capturing comprehensive information about tourist behaviour based on data posted by tourists on social media platforms. 

“Traditional approaches for studying tourist behaviours relied mainly on survey and questionnaire, which is costly and limited in the number of responses and the scale of the survey area,” Dr Vu said

“My proposed approach using geotagged photos provides a quick and efficient way for researchers and tourism managers to collect and analyse large-scale data sets for  practical applications in tourism destination marketing and management.”

Dr Vu believes says greater investment in postgraduate data analytics research by governments, funding bodies, and the data analysis sector would improve the quality of big data used in a range of industries.

“If we have more people doing high-level research on data analytics, it will flow on to more sophisticated data mining practices in tourism, hospitality, and other sectors.”