Published: 12 February 2020

PhD student wins international data science competition

PhD student, Ikram Nur Muharam, from the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management has won the Expedia Group x ENTER2020 data science competition on socially responsible and inclusive tourism for best use of secondary data. The event was organised by Expedia Group and the International Federation for IT in Travel and Tourism (IFITT) during ENTER2020 International eTourism Conference at University of Surrey in January 2020.

The goal of the competition was to better understand how technologies and platforms play a role in promoting a more socially responsible and inclusive travel and tourism industry. Using accommodation data provided by Expedia Group and other secondary data, Ikram used machine learning tools to identify and rank accommodation clusters in the United States that bring the most positive impact to the community. In particular, Ikram combined 58 different variables based on data obtained from Expedia Group, the US Census Bureau, FBI, and the US Bureau of Justice Statistics to develop his solution.

Ikram Nur Muharam said:

“To be honest, despite having expertise in programming and databases, my educational background is not in information technology, so at that time I saw participating in the competition as an opportunity to apply my passion in data analytics, to learn new things, and to build new connections. I am so happy to have won and to have been part of such a formidable event.”

Professor Iis Tussyadiah, Ikram’s PhD supervisor and Head of the Department of Hospitality, stated:

“The availability of data from different sources relevant to the travel and tourism industry provides us with tremendous opportunities. The challenge is to bring these data together and extract useful insights that will inform various stakeholders to develop a more sustainable sector. I am immensely proud of Ikram to show us how to do just that.”

The competition attracted participants from around the world. Other winners include teams from University of Florida (USA) for best insights, Virginia Tech (USA) for best use of AI and machine learning tools, and Barclays (UK) for best visualisation. All winners received prizes from the Expedia Group.

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