Aligning travel intent data to your larger marketing strategy

How to use intent and historical identity to identify, create and determine the best marketing opportunities 


Travel was one of the first industries to have sales coming through internet-connected mediums, starting with American Airlines’ Sabre service in 1985. Now, 30+ years later, travel brands have access to massive amounts of data through online channels and interactions, helping them make smarter decisions about how they interact with their audience.  

Intent data includes specific browsing activities that indicate a consumer is intending to travel or book a trip. This is largely directional information from travelers searching for potential flights, hotels, cruises or car rentals online. It is widely seen as a signifier of a trip that a traveler is likely to book and, therefore, highly relevant for travel marketers.

Although intent data can give a brand insight into when and where an individual is looking to travel, it’s important to understand how intent data should be used in conjunction with a comprehensive traveler profile as intent data alone is not a panacea for all marketing efforts and decisions.

Intent data is great, but it is in limited supply

Intent data is available only when a traveler actively goes to an OTA or brand site to search for flights, hotels or car rentals. These actions happen quite frequently, but the chain of events begins when a traveler searches and requires the marketer to wait for this information.

In many ways, marketers can equate intent data to organic search marketing. There are only so many people searching for so many things at a given point in time, and the same goes for travel searches. As a marketer, you’re acting on those that have already raised their hand in some way and identified themselves as a candidate for marketing opportunities. But your strategy can’t hinge on waiting for others to throw a ball just so you can catch it.




The other issue here is that intent data is competitive and only actionable in the booking stage. Brands that retarget solely based on intent and retargeting data are essentially dropping in halfway through the traveler’s buying journey. And if brands only focus on those that are planning a trip, they fight against every other travel brand to convert those specific individuals.  

Intent data is one part of the overall marketing strategy

If intent data is fulfilling demand that has already raised itself, the other side of that strategy is finding people who aren’t actively looking but might be soon.

Using a comprehensive travel profile, which includes historical spend, conquesting and a brand’s first-party data, travel marketers can use historical spend data on hotels, rental cars, airfare and cruises as well as other non-travel related spend to determine what kind of a traveler a specific person is, when they may be most likely to travel and what vacations or trips they prefer.

Using historical preferences, competitive insights and AI learnings, marketers can create their own demand and move known travelers into the initial dreaming stage of the traveler’s journey.

This comprehensive data set can not only allow brands to increase their share of wallet but also drive consideration to increase their share of travel. If a person regularly travels to Europe in the fall each year and books that trip around June or July, a brand can start sending them messages about European vacations and deals in May to initiate that person’s dreaming stage of the traveler’s journey.

Once the person moves into the planning and booking stages, the brand is already top of mind as the traveler starts actively booking their trip. And they have an advantage over their competitors who are just now receiving the intent data on that person for the first time.

Brands should match intent data with comprehensive traveler profile data

Pairing intent data with millions of comprehensive traveler profiles that contain the historical and purchase information for known travelers allows marketers to make better, more strategic decisions. Many people show intent, but which intenders are worth your marketing dollars and investment? Yes, all intent data is actionable in theory, but some intent data is more actionable than others.

Say, for example, that two people are showing intent to book a specific trip or offer, but you only have budget to market to one of them. Based on intent data alone, who do you choose? It’s either one or the other, and essentially a 50/50 chance on your marketing investment.

However, if you pair their intent data with their respective traveler profiles and find that one of those people takes 20 trips a year while the other only books one trip each year, now which one do you choose? You’d pick the person that takes 20 trips a year as they are more likely to book this specific offer. Having the full view of each individual helps marketers gain a better understanding of who they should connect with. 

Recognizing and using intent data in conjunction with a library of comprehensive traveler profiles should be a component of any travel marketer’s larger strategy. But the key is the ability to sift through the noise and understand when that data is most actionable for your brand.

To take the next step, learn how intent data can be paired with 7000+ dimensions across traveler profiles