Next to China, the US market is one of the largest pre-Covid tourism source countries.
With vaccine programmes in full swing around the globe and governments starting to open their doors up again to global tourism, if you're in the tourism and hospitality industry, you'll have a number of questions that you'll want answered fast so that you can start to strategise exactly how you're going to get back into profit.
Wherever you are in the world, the following questions should be at the top of your list:
- When will people really start travelling again?
- How do they feel about you as a destination?
- Who is your competition now and how do they appeal to the market compared to you?
- What might need to be done to attract travellers in this new reality?
An Destination Case Study - Thailand
Next to China, the US market is one of the largest pre-Covid tourism source countries. Right now in Thailand, both government tourism bodies and independent tourism and hospitality organisations are scrambling to implement plans which they think will help spark life back into the industry and get those global tourist dollars flowing again. Given that, let's take Thailand as the sample destination to study here and see what we can find out in real time about US Consumer sentiment towards travel, global tourism, and in particular, their attitudes towards Thailand. Once we can find that out, we can start to realistically pitch the market to them and counter any 'bumps' that we discover along the way. Just remember - this can be any destination; we're just using Thailand as an example.
In order to do this particular analysis we will be using some basic Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) gathering and analysis tools which are free and available to anyone. The core tools used in this example are TWINT (Twitter OSINT), Visidata and Vim. You will need a terminal too - you use a fully functional Google Cloud Console for free; all you need is a Google compatible account.
Getting the Data
Social media channels are a wonderful way to tap into the pulse of the people. Channels like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook offer us a plethora of data that can help us paint a picture of sentiment to any given topic. We can see what opinions are held out there, and who the most influential people are driving those opinions are - something that can come in handy when we're looking to start to 're-shift' opinion in one direction or another. Some may call it propaganda, we call it marketing.
For this example, let's use Twitter as our source of data. If you were to do this, you could perform these steps across any of the other channels, using the appropriate tools.
Using Twint, an OSINT tool specifically designed for Twitter intelligence gathering and analysis, we were able to retrieve over 10,000 tweets originating in the United States since May 2021 that mention Thailand. The data included everyone who posted, retweeted and was tagged within any of these tweets, as were all metadata including user names, languages, geolocation of post origin, images, hashtags, cashtags and other meta-data that can come in handy during analysis.
First of all, we want to see what the general sentiment towards Thailand is. There are several ways to do this. Google has two different machine learning natural language 'Sentiment Analysis' API's that you can feed data into to see how people feel from any given dataset. In our example however, we will take an easier and cheaper route that usually produces similar results. We will do a keyword analysis on both the hash-tagged keywords, as well as a keywords that come up in discussions.
The following are the top keywords that show up in over 10,000 tweets about Thailand:
cryptocurrency, travel, digitalnomad, testing, covid19, bangkok, hemp, hplc, cannabisindustry, cannabisnews, thai, missuniverse, canabinoides, cannabisusa, cannagrowers, cbdproducts, cbdschweiz, hempoil, เซียวจ้านxiaozhan肖战, phuket, tourism, humantrafficking, missuniverse2020, prostitution, sextrafficker, sextrafficking, news, airfare, asia, elephant, expats, modernslavery, socialdistancing, whatshappeninginthailand.
So it looks like when it comes to this information surface at least (Twitter), there's quite a bit of work to do when it comes to shifting perception in a direction that's going to work in favour of Thai tourism. It seems that the predominant online sentiment towards Thailand here centres around crypto-currency, scams, digital nomads, hemp, cannabis and prostitution - albeit with elephants thrown into the mix for good measure.
Let's keep it positive first - let's see what people are saying about travel and Thailand:
You can see from this screenshot that you have many people speaking fondly of their past travels to Thailand and a desire to get back. There is also frequent mention of people missing things that the Thai government would prefer not to be missed for.
On an interesting note, Thai Crypto good-luck amulets seem to be a thing - maybe something to follow up on by properties looking to offer that special something to travellers - who at the moment seem to be crypto-travelling digital nomads.
Who is Shaping Online Sentiment
One wonderful thing that you can do is see in a click who are the key influencers and even what languages the most influential posts are being posted in. Would you believe that when it comes to sentiment towards Thailand on Twitter coming out of the US, aside from English, the top languages driving discussions are Thai, Indonesian, Dutch and Tagalog.
General Influencers for 'Thailand' as a Topic
As far as who is actually shaping the sentiment on Twitter towards Thailand, the key influencers that account for more than 80% of tweets are (in order of frequency):
shiningthailand, crimethailand, yibozhange0505, ohmygirl8th, thailand_blog, dogefanthailand, thailand_simone, cannabistest1, southeastasia46, thailandthania, jonnystocks43, thaitrade_usa, southeastasiadc, thailandun, planet_thailand, michae1gray, mygrindelwald, lovethaiguys1, doctor_bkk1, news_bht, theflightdeal, thailandboi_la, bitcointe, mrandmrsromance, cannonjw, natlawcannabis, dendecannabist,
It seems that crypto, cannabis and crime are some of the most prolific Thailand targeted poster genres.
Top Influencers for Travel in relation to Thailand
Let's narrow it down and see who (twitter handles) is posting about travel in Thailand:
trinidoesfly, theflightdeal, cryptocoinboom, doctor_bkk1, billbernstein3, travelrealize, tellme_where2go, followsummergg, dogefanthailand, thetravelblonde, travelingted, machinatrader, travpromobile, cheapflightsfrs, cryptonews7news, _dogereport,
Again, the crypto theme pops up again.
What does all this mean?
Looking at this analysis alone, it would seem that the perceived sentiment towards Thailand in the eyes of Thai tourism professionals and government bodies vs. the sentiment we see towards Thailand from our Twitter OSINT collection and analysis are quite disparate. While Thailand is looking to promote white sandy beaches, culture, food and great shopping, the predominant themes that recur in posts are focused more towards crypto-currency, cannabis, digital nomads, prostitution, sex-trafficking, LGBT parties, and cheap flights.
Any strategy looking to open the country up to global tourism again especially to the US market, might look at ways of countering these kinds of negative sentiment towards Thailand - getting the message out there so that Thailand can be shifted more in the direction of a safe, easy to access destination that steers away from crime, prostitution and anything with a 'scammy' or 'cheap' element.
One thing we haven't done in this analysis is compare sentiment towards traveling to Thailand by US consumers with other destinations. We can leave that to another post - needless to say, from just this data alone, there's a lot to get started on if Thailand is to reach its tourism goals.
What insights can OSINT tell about your market?
While this particular analysis was looking at 'Thailand' as a target keyword, you could just as easily use your brand, property or other keywords that are important to you to learn more about the sentiment on the ground towards that topic. If you'd like to learn more about using OSINT within your organisation to gain insights and strategise for business wins, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a message in the comments.