A million clicks and a mountain of data. For travel websites, exploring the treasure trove of information generated by customers as they browse the Web for holidays and hotel bookings is no mean task. Enter big data analytics, helping create order out of chaos.

Online travel agencies are increasingly leveraging big data to improve their business. Yatra Online Pvt. Ltd, which runs popular travel site Yatra.com, tied up with a Silicon Valley-based start-up a couple of months ago, which is creating personalized offerings by sampling consumer behaviour. It is among several other start-ups helping Yatra with personalization and recommendation, social collaboration, online polls and customer feedback and targeted alerts and mailers.

“We are piloting a project on personalization with a US-based start-up, which is focused on using users’ browsing history and buying behaviour to present a personalized offering to customer," said Sharat Dhall, president of Yatra.com. “We are testing it on one set of users, who will see different versions of the website. It is then used to compare conversion rates with another set of users. We will modify the model based on the results."

A Delhi-based start-up is providing Yatra with recommendation modules powered by machine-learning based algorithms for hotels and holidays on the home page, while a Bengaluru-based start-up helps it send customized alerts and mailers based on users’ online behaviour and preferences. Yatra is exploring more such tie-ups, Dhall said.

Similarly, Ibibo.com, run by Ibibo Group, a subsidiary of South African mass media company Naspers Ltd, is working with at least eight Indian start-ups, said Ashish Kashyap, chief executive, IbiboGroup.

In March, Ibibo bought a majority stake in online bus tracking and analytics platform YourBus.in for insights on travellers and bus owners.

“We have an in-house business intelligence framework and, on the top of that, we work with various start-ups for areas like consumer segmentation, forecast analytics and predictions," said Kashyap, adding the company started experimenting with start-ups last year.

“Every company has a need to create business intelligence. We analyse multiple data sets like (Internet) traffic data, financial data and consumer data to drive our day-to-day decisions like increasing marketing efforts where supply is more than the demand or asset management to see where to put in more dollars," he said. “We also gauge trends by predicting what would be trends like after 24 months," he added.

Travel portals are also helping firms engaged in developing travel-related technology.

In September, MakeMyTrip Ltd set up a $15 million fund to support early-stage travel technology companies with special focus on mobile and IP-based companies.

“Using Big Data helps us derive greater insights into customer behaviour patterns and customer preferences," said Deep Kalra, founder and group chief executive officer of MakeMyTrip. “Analytics helps enhance efficiency at the business-end and experience at the customer-end by developing new approaches to customer management, revenue management and internal operations," Kalra said.

While Yatra’s Dhall said the firm has a 200-strong technology team and is projecting its technology spend to be over 25% of total expenditure this year, Ibibo plans to spend 30% of its development expenditure on enhancing Big Data capabilities over two years.

Aloke Bajpai, chief executive officer and co-founder of Le Travenues Technology Pvt. Ltd, which runs ixigo.com, said the firm is working with a couple of Big Data start-ups and looking at partnering with more.

“Travel companies are looking at enhancing abilities to understand potential travellers better and expand their window of opportunity," said Deep Basu, vice-president of client solutions at Mobileum Inc., a US-based Big Data analytics provider for telecom companies that entered travel analytics 18 months ago.

“We define them based on their persona. For instance, a traveller may like a particular airline, communication provider, movie theatre or prefer fine dining and night-time flights. We provide persona-based analytics, giving insight not only based on what he has done, but also what he likes to do, thus discerning behaviour such as what a traveller with a particular persona is likely to do," Basu added.

“As the technology becomes more prevalent, we are going to see more online travel agencies exploiting Big Data analytics to increase their capability to offer personalized and customized offerings. It is a natural progression," said P.R. Srinivas, director of hospitality services, Cushman and Wakefield India.

“How one company leverages the Big Data will determine the stickiness of a travel portal, which, in turn, will determine an online travel agent’s valuation," he said.