Thomas Cook: I’d be surprised if people really knew what we were doing with their data

Simple data from ‘travel intenders’ powers significant volumes of partnerships for the 3,000 hotels and tourist boards Thomas Cook works with to help them get more bookings.

For a business that thrives on first-party data, the potential aftermath of GDPR will undoubtedly have sent a few shivers up the spines of Thomas Cook’s marketers.

From email addresses and card details, to home addresses and information about families, the travel company has data from the more than 20 million people it sends on holiday every year.

But more valuable than that are the 175 million people that use Thomas Cook as a benchmark for cost each year.

While these “travel intenders” don’t leave their name or email address, the seemingly trivial information they give about where they want to go to and from, and for how long, allows Thomas Cook to power “significant volumes” of partnerships for the 3,000 hotels and tourist boards it works with to help them get more bookings.

“We use data for own site and more widely across the web through programmatic, but also for powering in-store, in-flight, in-resort campaigns that might deliver more bookings for a hotel, or change perceptions of the destination, or make you more likely to buy a headphones brand because you’re thinking about buying those before going on holiday,” explains Ben Holland, Thomas Cook’s head of international brand partnerships.

READ MORE: Despite GDPR, consumers still don’t understand how brands use their data

He later added: “I would be surprised if [people] really knew that we were doing that. They probably know how their car works but they don’t really think about it until it blows up in front of them. It’s only when something blows up that makes them think: ‘Oh, hang on a minute – data. What goes on with that?’”

Holland was speaking at an event in London last week, hosted by We Are Social, about how brands should be marketing to data-conscious consumers.

“We don’t have anything to hide but I don’t necessarily think they think very much why they’re seeing that ad for a Cuban hotel or Turkish tourist board or Bose headphones.”

However, what consumers are now much more aware of, Holland says, is their capability to say no – not necessarily because of GDPR, but because of a more conscious awareness of when a brand, product or service doesn’t offer any value.

“So brands are going to have to work much harder to create content or value or offers that make me want to engage with them much more,” he says. “If you can retain that scale of the volume of data then you’re in position A.”