Virgin Holidays powers travel recommendations with social posts

Virgin Holidays, which provides packaged travel tours in the UK market, has launched a new online Trending Travel Guide of hot spots in U.S. cities that taps into word-of-mouth opinions.

More specifically, it utilizes the Crimson Hexagon social analytics platform to assess hashtags and positive comments in posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, as well as travel-related non-social comments on sites like Trip Advisor.

Four categories per city. This analysis — a kind of live guidebook — is grouped by four categories in New York City, Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida, with top selections in each category.

In New York, the categories are attractions, restaurants, nightlife and shopping; in Vegas, they are nightlife & pool parties, shows & attractions, casinos and restaurants; and in Orlando: attractions, nightlife, theme parks & water parks and restaurants.

Virgin Holidays’ lead for media, digital and brand partnerships James Libor told me that other cities and categories are being planned.

‘What people are talking about.’ The automated analysis of which destinations are generating the most positive comments, he said, creates a score that also takes into account negative comments. The highest scoring destinations are selected and posted, along with a comment from one of the social posts or a general description from Virgin. The number of analyzed posts varies, ranging from a cumulative 3468 for best restaurants in Orlando to 26,262,952 for Attractions in New York.

Libor said there is no data on whether these selections are, in fact, the most popular choices in their respective locales, but that this is intended as a subjective guide, based on the number and tone of positive posts.

“The point is not to validate [the popularity],” he said, but to reflect “what people are talking about.”

Why this matters to marketers. While social analytics platforms can commonly indicate the most talked-about topics in a given subject, and travelers frequently use social media to research their trips, Libor said he wasn’t aware of another travel destination guide offering a similar set of social-derived recommendations, notwithstanding sites that utilize user-generated imagery. This Virgin Guide only analyzes text, and does not employ user-created images.

Word-of-mouth can be the most powerful form of marketing, so turning social chatter into travel recommendations could become a powerful tool to harness that energy.