Providing memorable travel experiences using customer sentiment analytics

Business and Technology Writer

More than 100 million travelers took to the roads, rails and skies between Dec. 23, 2015 and Jan. 3, 2016, AAA reports. This relatively short time frame can provide a wealth of useful information regarding customers' sentiments to help hotels, airlines, passenger rail companies and other industry players identify new opportunities to provide memorable and repeatable travel experiences.

Travel providers are increasingly turning to data insights around demand, predictive intelligence and social analytics to empower and elevate their marketing promotions and offers. Businesses in the travel space can leverage past seasons' data to make next season's guests and travelers happier and more loyal, one trip or stay at a time.

#Wanderlust: Are you along for the ride?

Travelers and guests — from frequent fliers to first-time cruisers — want to talk about their vacation plans, and social media is central to that experience. According to Salesforce, 72 percent of travelers post real-time updates about their trips and 97 percent of millennials discuss their travels on social media. Call it "tweeting tourism," from everyone, everywhere.

Customers' inclination to broadcast travel experiences can be financially and strategically beneficial to travel and tourism companies. By intelligently analyzing content on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with sentiment analytics, companies can pinpoint when customers start planning their trips, how much they're willing to spend, where they are finding information and how they are booking their trips.

The European Travel Commission periodically uses sentiment surveys to monitor people's intention to travel and their considerations when planning a trip. When travel and hospitality providers capture this information, they can analyze it to glean insights to create personalized, real-time promotions that will effectively reach high-value consumers in coming years at every point along consumers' consideration and decision-making journeys.

Making connections between demographic interests

As Tnooz points out, data analytics can take customer sentiment to deeper levels as well, identifying connections between demographic interests and a group's propensity to travel to certain destinations. For example, affinity monitoring shows that Snapchat users are far more likely to be interested in Walt Disney World-related social posts than customers who are interested in video games. With this type of analysis in hand, travel companies can implement data-driven marketing strategies targeting specific demographics.

Tipping the scale with price and capacity data

Travel executives are always looking to strike an optimal balance between pricing and capacity, and this consideration becomes crucial during peak traveling periods. By building a predictive customer intelligence road map from past seasons, companies can construct predictive models to manage or drive the new rush of guests and travelers. Marketing, customer service and property management personnel can then take customers' increasing desire for flexibility into account, for example, while still building capacity-oriented plans.

In this way, data allows travel companies to foster consumer loyalty and ensure they are driving and managing revenue. TUI Travel recently employed analytics to this end, and the result was a 66 percent decrease in time needed to prepare for coming business cycles. Further, the company's cycle reporting process was 50 percent faster, according to Forbes.

You don't need a prophet to profit

To improve margins, travel companies must reduce time spent constructing special offers while still targeting customers individually with deals that reflect previous booking behaviors. As ITProPortal points out, data analytics not only helps brands create dynamic pricing and purchase recommendations in near-instantaneous fashion, but it can also map relationships between special offers, bookings, taxes, fuel costs and exchange rates. These insights drive a significant advantage when it comes to revenue. Careful, informed planning keeps travelers happier, too.

The online travel sphere is rich with opportunities to improve marketing, promotion and operations, but companies will be left behind at the gate without the advanced analytics tools needed to parse through the influx of customer data.

Power your decision making and glean a 360-view of your consumer with data analytics. Visit IBM's Travel and Transport Industry Page to learn more.