Monitoring consumer travel trends with Relative Insight Heartbeat

The past two years have brought major disruptions to the travel industry. But as the world learns to live with COVID, catching a flight to explore a new place is becoming easier to imagine. As international tourism rebounds, businesses in the travel and tourism sector can benefit from analysing social media data to understand what travellers are talking about as they prepare to resume their globe-trotting.

Analysing topical social media and forum conversations can help organisations understand what prospective travellers want from their holidays, identify the kinds of trips people are interested in and articulate how the pandemic is impacting the travel experience.

We used our newest product – Relative Insight Heartbeat – to analyse holiday-related online conversations from social media and forums over the past year. Heartbeat provides an objective, efficient and scalable way to visualise changes in the most important themes in your qualitative data over time.

In this instance, we defined six themes to visualise in the data:

  • Beach holidays
  • Ski holidays
  • Cruises
  • Desire to book a holiday
  • Caution
  • Confidence

Applying these themes to our social media and forum data to create a Heartbeat chart, we were able to gain insight into the minds of prospective travellers by visualising how the discussion of each theme has changed over time.

Analysing social media data with Heartbeat

Types of holidays

Beach, ski, cruise

Our Heartbeat chart reveals seasonal peaks and patterns in destination interest. Understanding exactly when discussions of a particular type of holiday are picking up can help hotels, airlines and other tourism operators plan their communications and promotions to target their audiences at the right time.

Discussions of beach holidays including words like beach, sea and coast were consistently high from April through July before trailing off and rebounding in December and January. This tells us that consumers are most likely to think of beach destinations in the lead up to the traditional summer holiday period, but there is also an opportunity in the cooler winter months when the weather at home gets people yearning for sunnier skies.

An uptick in discussions of ski holidays between October and January indicates this is the period during which people think about and plan their ski holidays. A smaller increase between July and August indicates the early birds may be thinking ahead to their ski holidays as summer is coming to an end.   

It’s no secret the early days of the pandemic were disastrous for the cruise industry. At the beginning of 2021, online discussion of cruises had plateaued. Yet in recent months we’ve witnessed growth in the proportion of conversations being dedicated to this theme, although ski and beach holidays still represent a much larger portion of the conversation. Increased chatter about cruises reflects improving consumer confidence that cruises are safe and will go ahead. This uptick is a positive sign the cruise industry is coming back to life.

Paying close attention to when discussions of specific themes are taking off in consumer discourse can provide valuable insight into the customer journey and help brands reflect this in their marketing.


Confidence, caution

Heartbeat also enabled us to monitor changes in the emotions of target audiences. Specifically, we tracked the themes of confidence and caution in online discussions to gain insight into the mindset of consumers.

The Heartbeat chart reveals that caution spiked in May 2021, as the UK was exiting lock down and contending with an often-confusing set of travel restrictions. In the two months that followed we can see caution dropping off and confidence reaching a peak, signalling people were leaving pandemic fears behind as summer approached and vaccination rates increased.

Despite conversations of caution dipping over the spring and summer, we observed a sharp rise during October and November 2021 aligning with the arrival of Omicron to British shores. A worsening COVID situation combined with a desire to spend the holidays with friends and family likely contributed to sustained cautious attitudes through to the end of 2021.

January saw the return of traveller confidence alongside a considerable decrease in the proportion of the conversation expressing caution. This is a positive indicator of consumer confidence in the travel sector for 2022. However, the chart clearly shows a connection between the prevailing state of the pandemic and consumer confidence. Future new variants may once again disrupt the positive trend we are seeing.

Desire for holiday

Need, want, booked, dream

The start of a new year is an exciting and important time for the travel industry. For many consumers, travel is top of mind as they look to plan fun adventures for the year ahead and inject some excitement into the quiet post-Christmas period. Looking at the prevalence of words relating to purchase intent such as want, need, dream and book, we saw the proportion of conversation dedicated to this theme double between December and January.

The new year seems to be the time when target audiences are planning trips, dreaming of holidays and acting on their desires to book trips. Brands should aim to maximise advertising spend around this time to ensure they are capitalising on consumer enthusiasm.

Monitoring trends with Relative Insight Heartbeat

When it comes to consumer behaviour, the travel industry is a perfect illustration of the importance of staying on top of audience trends. What people want from their holiday experience can shift dramatically from month to month and year to year with changes being driven by everything from political events to influencer culture.

Heartbeat makes it easy for brands and agencies to identify important changes in online conversations over time and talk to their target audiences about the right things, at the right time, in the right context. Heartbeat charts provide a powerful, easy to understand visual that can easily be updated with the latest data to support “always-on” audience intelligence.