It’s coming to that time of year when we all start daydreaming about summer holidays to far flung destinations.
But the recession has had a huge impact on travel bookings; in 2011, there were nearly 9 million fewer overseas holidays taken than in 2008 (by people in the UK), according to Mintel. The market has remained stagnant, but online booking processes continue to improve; just under two thirds of overseas holidays taken by UK consumers are booked online .
The internet allows consumers to research their holidays in more depth than ever before, opening up resorts and travel agents to closer scrutiny. Holiday review sites are popular and can be a powerful influence on travel agent take up – both bad and good.
We’ve been analysing different industries each week (last week it was laundry products, remember?), so this week we decided to take a look at UK travel agents. We analysed UK conversation about nine of the top travel agents from mid-Dec to mid-Jan to find out which were faring best online. They are: Expedia, Co-operative Travel, First Choice, STA Travel, TUI Travel PLC, Virgin Holidays, Thomas Cook, Hays Travel and Thomson.
Of the Travel agents we looked at, Thomas Cook was mentioned by far the most in the past month, accounting for a 31% share of the conversation about all nine.
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Thomas Cook was followed by Virgin (26%), Thomson (13%) and Expedia (9%) as the most mentioned agents. Hays Travel was the least mentioned, accounting for only 1% of conversation.
Conversation about travel agents increased just before the Christmas period, peaking on the 20th December due to discussion about Thomas Cook Sports packages to Madrid.
Travel agent conversation dipped during the Christmas period, but began to pick up again in the first week of January, peaking in the second week.
First Choice was the most emotive of the brands, with 16% of mentions about the brand displaying emotion, 12% of which was positive – the highest proportion of positive mentions out of all the brands.
Much of this positive conversation was regarding the First Choice ‘Advent Calendar’ which gave the opportunity to win prizes.
Brands with the highest percentage of positive conversation were First Choice (12%), Expedia (10%) and Thomson (9%).
Conversation about Expedia praised its good deals and the ‘no hassle’ holidays people had enjoyed with them.
Brands with the highest percentage of negative conversation were Virgin, Thomson and Thomas Cook (all 5%).
Much of the negativity surrounding Thomas Cook regarded the planes (complaints of being cramped and ‘old’) and bad customer service.
Much of the negative conversation surrounding Virgin was due to comments about the agent being more expensive than others.
So that’s a snapshot of the UK travel agent industry online. Want us to look at a specific sector? Let us know in the comments below or via Twitter – @brandwatch