This weekend we take to thinking about big data and whether it is a help to travelers or only to providers. Another story explores superstitions that travelers have, as well as airports and airlines. And, finally, we focus on bikes in Spain. It is one of the most unlikely countries to find bicycles outselling automobiles — now, how do they handle them on the roads?
MyMagic wristbands, gateway to profits
Disney is going big into big data and personalized planning and offers. This data is being collected by a wristband with a tracking chip. From it, Disney will be able to provide, “services that we can now offer on a personalized basis, because we know who you are, where you are and — if you tell us why are you are coming to visit Walt Disney World for this vacation — whether you’re a first-time visitor, a 50th-time visitor, it is your child’s fifth birthday, it is a graduation, it’s an anniversary.”
Some folk seem to embrace getting more of what they want, even if they didn’t plan on it. Others find the concept creepy. Disney is investing more than $1 billion to gather this big data and track where visitors go, spend their money, eat, relax and when.
How do you feel about this kind of marketing? Is it a help? Or, do you find it disturbing?
Disney’s ability to profitably harvest that data will go a long way toward determining whether MyMagic proves worthy of the enormous capital investment — about $1 billion — and whether it can be a growth engine for the company’s $13 billion-a-year parks and resorts business.
At the core of MyMagic are wristbands, which Disney has dubbed “MagicBands,” that are equipped with radio-frequency identification chips and interact with RFID scanners installed all across Disney World. There are the obvious, short-range chip readers that guests wave their bands in front of — to pay for a souvenir, for instance, or open a hotel room door — but there are also hidden, long-range readers that read the bands without the guest doing anything at all.
Rasulo, the Disney Co. chief financial officer, has said Disney views the analytics component of MyMagic as a secondary driver of revenue. The bigger drivers, the company says, will be getting guests to spend more time at Disney World by allowing them to lock in more of their trip ahead of time, and to spend more money while there by making purchases easier and cash-free.
The oddest airline superstitions
Airlines and airports make accommodations for superstitions. One of the strongest is avoiding the number 13. Just as most hotels do not have a floor 13, airplanes often do not have 13 as part of flight numbers or designate a row on the plane with 13. And, some airlines flaunt superstitions with amusing consequences.
Do you have any travel superstitions? I’ve been thinking a bit about this and can’t say that I do.
Before it merged with United Airlines, Continental Airlines avoided the number 13 religiously: no gate 13s at hub airports, no row 13s on airplanes.
Veterans from the airline say the triskaidekaphobia followed the crash of Flight 1713 in Denver in 1987. “After that, a lot of 13s were taken out of Continental Airlines,” said an executive who worked there at the time.
Construction workers top airport control towers with a ceremonial cedar tree, a construction tradition for good luck. Airlines sometimes put perceived lucky numbers on flights to gambling destinations, such as Southwest Airlines Flight 711 from San Antonio to Las Vegas.
In addition to Flight 13, most airlines avoid using 666, the Biblical “number of the beast.” But not Finnair, which whimsically flies Flight 666 from Copenhagen to Helsinki. Which means fliers can, on a daily basis, take Flight 666 to HEL (that’s Helsinki’s international airport code).
Finnair said in a statement that it has carried the number for years. “The 666 superstition is not such a big thing here in Finland, and we’ve never had a reason to change the flight number, so it stays.”
Car-centric Spain begins to embrace the bicycle
Spain, that has long had a love affair with cars, is being overrun by bicyclists. Manufacturers just reported that bicycles outsold automobiles for the first time in modern history in Spain. And riders, itching for the designation of bike lanes and bike-friendly rules, are beginning to take matters into their own hands.
…thousands of cyclists occupy the Spanish capital on the last Thursday of every month, halting traffic at rush hour. They gather at a 19th-century palace in central Madrid, and ride a different route around the city each month.
“People are fed up to wait for the City Council to make bike lanes. Because when they had the money, they didn’t do it,” says Iván Villarrubia, a 36-year-old urban planner and self-styled bike activist. “And now that they want to do it, they don’t have the money.”
Villarrubia believes newcomers to biking should learn to share the road with cars, rather than wait for City Hall to build bike lanes. So far there are only a handful in the capital. “Long-term, to know how to share, to yield, to slow down — that’s the correct solution.”
There’s no hard data on bicycles in Madrid. Other Spanish cities like Barcelona and Sevilla have bike-sharing schemes like the one New York debuted last summer, through which the municipality can track bike use. But the Spanish capital’s last bike tally was taken nine years ago, during the economic boom. Since the crash, activists estimate the number of cyclists here is doubling every 2.5 years — as the cost of public transport and fuel go up.
Photo: A family uses the MyMagic+ band in this promotional image from Disney. © Walt Disney World Resorts