- Allianz Global Assistance has collated the concerns and topics discussed by internet users from 11 countries (Australia, Austria, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States) in traveller forums in the past five years.
- This study shows the great diversity of discussions among travellers, with 59 different themes featuring in the Top 10 of these 11 countries.
- The top three most popular topics on both global and European levels are: air transport, looking for a travel companion, and cruises. Economic concerns also feature, with lots of discussions on bargain travel, camping and loyalty programmes.
- In Europe, travellers also discuss travel agents, rights and laws abroad, and advice on travelling with children.
- In France, all-inclusive holidays and packages on land or at sea (cruises) top the list, ahead of questions about air companies. Working and living abroad is a topic attracting particular interest in France, putting it in 4th position, compared to 9th in the World Top Ten.
The study focuses on 11 countries: eight European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom) as well as Australia, China and the United States. For each of these countries, between five and ten travel forums were selected from the most highly ranked sites, featuring a total of several million comments over the five year period. A close analysis of these comments and their classification into different themes reveal the wide diversity of subjects and concerns which vary from one geographical area to another.
"Once again, the #helpme observatory that we established a year ago is bursting with compelling information. It shows the incredible diversity of travel concerns and habits from one country to another. This observation is all the more interesting given that we live in a globalised world. The results show the extent to which it is important for international companies to address each market with humility and to understand its particularities, in order to be respond to everyone's needs" states Rémi Grenier, CEO of Allianz Global Assistance.
The world's Top 10 travel concerns
On average, the main concern for travellers from the 11 countries studied is air travel. They discuss airline companies and aeroplanes as well as airports. Several discussions also look at luggage (weight, size), objects not allowed on board, etc. This topic tops the list of themes discussed in Australia, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom, while Americans are primarily concerned with airline companies' loyalty and mileage programmes.
Travel forums, which are neither dating sites nor marriage agencies, are often used by women to seek a companion with whom they can travel safely, one who knows the destination country and can provide guidance and reassurance. These search terms are very common particularly in China, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands (amongst top results of the Top 10).
In light of economic pressure, cruises are also a widely discussed themes amongst travellers wishing to maintain full control over their budgets and to travel in comfortable conditions. However, although cruises are a point of interest for France, Germany and Italy, they do not feature in the Top 10 for the USA or Australia and feature only in 10th position in China. From a similar economic perspective, bargain travel, camping and how to get the most out of airline companies' loyalty schemes take 4th, 5th and 6th place in the World Top 10. These topics are particularly discussed in the Netherlands and in Italy.
Travel agencies (7th) are the subject of highly animated discussions. Tourism professionals are certainly looking closely at these discussions, which offer them the best possible study of customer satisfaction and reputation.
Eighth in the World Top 10 is equipment (luggage, clothing, tents, etc.) which concerns many travellers who want to be comfortable but also want to travel light. This is particularly true for China and the United Kingdom.
Ninth in the World Top 10 (shared across several European countries) is moving abroad to study or work. Internet users (often young people) seek advice on studying, standard of living, accommodation, obtaining long-term visas, etc. This theme was seen in several European countries (France, Italy, the Netherlands) where people seek better economic conditions in rapidly developing countries.
The Top 10 finishes, quite naturally, with questions on local rights and laws: visas, ID papers, passport renewal, driving licenses, commercial possibilities, local taxes, etc.
Local curiosities: these themes only appear in one country
Some discussion themes only appear in a single country. This is the case in China for questions on 'travelling with parents'. The French appear to be the only ones concerned with 'All-inclusive hotels and packages' and 'Bike tours'. The Americans ask questions about 'car rental' while the Polish are the only country to discuss 'mountain holidays' and 'holiday camps'. 'Safety and security' is a specific point of interest for Americans, while the Spanish ask questions about 'Guides, drivers and taxi drivers'. The British ask questions about 'weather and climate conditions'. An Italian particularity is 'holidays excluding air transportation'. Afraid of missing out on something interesting, Australians ask about 'must see' locations, while Austrians look for ‘outstanding destinations' and Germans appear to be interested in 'diving'.
Europe is not like the rest of the world
The Top 10 in Europe is significantly different from the World Top 10. . Although the top three topics are the same (air transport, looking for a travel companion, cruises), camping moves up a place (4th) and travel agents moves up two notches (5th). Bargain travel moves from 4th to 6th, perhaps due the number of low-cost companies operating short and medium haul flights in Europe. Europeans are concerned about laws abroad (7th place) and travelling with children (8th place). Lastly, ‘equipment’ features as a vast topic which can be broken down into two categories: equipment in general (9th) and photo and video equipment in particular (10th).
The French are keen to travel comfortably
In France, the top three most discussed themes include all-inclusive packages, with some 299,404 posted messages, followed closely by cruises (298,757 messages), and by discussions on airline companies (269,899).
Against the backdrop of the economic crisis, the theme of 'all-inclusive hotels and packages' is clear: travellers want to control their budget and lower the risk of (nasty) surprises, making these packages particularly attractive. But many travellers also ask questions about the real quality of services delivered. A significant number of comments are intended to warn future travellers, through the sharing of bad experiences with hotels, tour operators and on-line reservation services. From the same point of view as package holidays, the French are also interested in cruises which offer increasingly attractive prices.
One point of particular interest is on the possibility of moving abroad. While many young people talk about leaving to study or work abroad, this trend can also be seen on the forum discussions. In 4th position, this theme is particularly important in France, while it only features in 9th place of the World’s Top Ten. In contrast to all-inclusive packages, many French people discuss more flexible and adventurous ways of travelling: walking, biking, hiking, etc.
Finally, the French, like many other travellers in the world are looking for travel companions. This theme is second on the World’s Top Ten.
Some unusual themes in the French top 20
Digging deeper into the top 20 of the French results, in 15th position, is the theme of 'Solidarity and responsible tourism, eco-tourism', which is specific to France – reflected only tangentially in the Netherlands, where volunteering takes 3rd place in the forum discussions.
Among other significant topics, practical concerns rank highly, such as, for example, questions about 'Weather and climate conditions’ (11th), healthcare before, during and after travelling (14th), and bargain travel (13th) and train travel (17th).
Surprisingly (or perhaps not, some may say, given France's reputation for romance), is the topic of marrying abroad or marrying a foreign national, which attracted no less than 20,000 comments, allowing it to make it in the French Top 20!
A wide range for France: Atypical for some subjects, in line with the world Top 10 for others
Although it is the number one concern in France, 'all-inclusive’ holidays do not feature in the Top 10 of any other country in the study! Similarly, the theme 'bargain travel' only appears in 14th place in France, while it comes 6th in Europe (1st in Italy) and 4th in the World ranking. A deduction could simply be that, more than ever, French travellers want to plan and control their budgets as much as possible, to avoid any nasty surprises.
France is also the only country to include in its Top 10 the themes of 'Paperwork', 'Hiking, Trekking and adventure’, and 'Bike tours'. Two other significant differences can be highlighted:
On the one hand, 'Looking for a travel companion', which appears last in the French Top 10, appears much higher in most European countries: 1st in the Netherlands, 3rd in Italy, and 4th in Spain. The theme even comes 2nd in the European and World rankings!
On the other hand, a subject as popular as camping, which should be experiencing great success as a low-cost form of accommodation, only appears 13th in the French list, while Austria and the Netherlands put it in 2nd position, Europe in 4th and the World in 5th.
Second (cruises) and third (air companies) places in the French list are also topics which appear frequently in other countries. Cruises thus appear in 3rd place in the most-talked about topics in Europe and in the World. Airline companies are also clearly at the subject of a lot of discussion: 1st subject in Germany, Austria, Spain, the United Kingdom and in the overall European classification, they also come 1st in the world (2nd in Australia, 3rd in the United States).
About the #HELPME observatory
In June 2013, Allianz Global Assistance launched an observatory of social networks in its main areas of activity, particularly the travel and automotive sectors. This platform is called, '#HELPME' and it analyses the impact of social networks, as well as the social and mobile dimension of digital tools, on the way in which consumers seek and find advice. This observatory of consumers’ online habits and behaviours feeds into the development of new services implemented by the Allianz Global Assistance teams throughout the world, in response to new needs.
In 2013, Allianz Global Assistance established the #HELPME observatory. After having deciphered Twitter usage by travellers, followed by interactions between drivers and car manufacturers through social networks, #HELPME unveils the results of its latest study: the concerns and topics of interest expressed by internet users in travel-related forums.
In order to find out how internet users surf the web to look for information on travel, several forums were selected from a search in Google, using the following search criteria: 'Forum + Tourism', 'Forum + Travel', and 'Forum + Holidays'. For each country, only the forums which ranked the highest (by Google) and which fulfilled to the following criteria were selected: popularity, presence of a dedicated tourism area, presence of cross-cutting topics, comments coming from a country’s nationals.
The 5-10 forums selected were chosen depending on the size of the country and the results.
Several million comments addressing a wide variety of topics were posted on the selected forums and the analysis covered comments from a period of over five years. The study was conducted between 15 May and 15 June 2014 by Data Observer.
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