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Building Positive Consumer Search Sentiment in the Travel Industry

By paying attention to how consumers search around a travel brand and understanding why they search for what they do, brands can create a better search and overall experience for travelers.

Since the entrance of Airbnb and other vacation rental marketplaces like VRBO, competition in the accommodations category has been fierce. Hotels and rental marketplaces are looking for anything to differentiate themselves, whether emphasizing exceptional customer service, unique experiences, or a top-notch online platform. While these are top of mind for all accommodations professionals, one thing they might not be thinking of is their online search presence. Enter Net Searcher Sentiment (NSS). 

Search provides a very powerful and natural lens into what people really care about. Net Searcher Sentiment is a cutting-edge metric that analyzes consumer sentiment that is embedded in search data. Built to replace Net Promoter Score, NSS relies on aggregated search data instead of surveys, which are prone to many well-documented biases. NSS is resistant to many biases found in surveys or panels, and it doesn’t have the performative aspect you find in social media. In sum, people don’t lie to their search bars, so NSS provides the best reflection of how consumers feel about a brand.

In looking at search activity for the 100 top US advertisers across categories like travel, retail, and telecommunications, Airbnb was the number one overall advertiser in terms of consumer search sentiment. Airbnb’s NSS also stood out highly from selected brands in the travel category, including online travel agencies (OTAs) like and

So, what makes Airbnb so successful with consumers?

Trust Through Relationships

Airbnb built its brand on disrupting norms in the hospitality industry. How did it do this? By keeping trust and reputation at the core of the brand. With the brand having started by disrupting established hospitality norms, one thing is clear: trust and reputation have been requirements for Airbnb not only to thrive, but to even function. Airbnb had an NSS score 2.9 times higher than the second-place brand. Further, compared to other brands in the travel category, Airbnb was the only one to see net-positive sentiment over a year-long period. Others examined, like and, were borderline neutral as searches with positive and negative sentiment balanced out. 

This suggests that, unlike other hotel experiences, Airbnb searchers heard from friends and family about their experiences with Airbnb, so they took those recommendations to heart. These positive experiences led to positive search intent, while other travel sites were mixed because friends and family had neutral experiences with those brands. To further stand out from the crowd, online travel sites should emphasize positive customer reviews on their website or search platforms. They can also offer discounts on future stays to provide positive recommendations to friends and family that can be tracked through a referral program or for leaving positive reviews across the web.

Uniquely Airbnb Experiences

Additionally, searches for Airbnb were especially unique from other travel companies in how expressive they were. A level of intimacy was seen in search data for Airbnb that simply wasn’t received by others in the space. For instance, when searching Airbnb, positive sentiment thrived off a desire to find beautiful places to stay. Searchers weren’t just looking plainly for a getaway to their travel destination. Rather, they turned to Airbnb to look for a special, memorable place to stay.

While travel brands may provide and market similarly desirable stays, this intent is boldly shown and not hidden for Airbnb in search. Distinct from other travel brands, its perception as a force for good in the world was found in search sentiment, both from a corporate and societal perspective. As a tech darling, subjects ranging from envious employee perks to its positive influence on the sharing economy were of interest.

As such, other travel brands should lean into promoting unique or different offerings, such as a bungalow in a tropical locale or a remote cabin with great perks near a hiking area. Additionally, hotel brands should consider revamping how they advertise their room offerings, going beyond neutral listings and instead use descriptive creative language to describe a room. This will help consumers better connect with a travel brand on a personal level instead of feeling like it’s just another corporation where the room is the same in every location. Lastly, other travel brands should emphasize their unique company offerings, like specific employee perks or an interesting company initiative. Like the differentiated listings, these will make a travel brand feel more personal and allow a consumer to better connect with a brand, which will help with consumer sentiment.

Travel is an extremely personal experience. By paying attention to how consumers search around a travel brand and understanding why they search for what they do, brands can create a better search and overall experience for travelers. Connecting with consumers on a personal level and leaning into that across the online and offline experience will help build a stronger relationship with customers and ensure that a brand has a strong presence across all channels.

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