But how do you feel? The role of emotion in travel purchasing decisions

Travelling is inherently emotional. Travellers can feel a plethora of emotions ahead of a trip: excitement, dread, comfort, or any combination thereof. But how can these emotions influence a purchasing decision, and how can travel companies leverage this to optimal effect?

NB: This is a viewpoint by Alberto Ferreira, UX researcher.

Emotion guides decision making. Research has consistently shown that people are less patient when they are in a negative frame of mind, and fear can dissuade travellers from a destination. There are simple triggers that can guide the decision making process, but quantifying these can be a daunting task.

Defining moments

The best way to analyse the emotional journey is by using a common emotional instrument such as Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions or the Geneva Wheel. When used in interviews and workshops, these self-evaluation instruments allow insights into what clients feel at each stage of the shopping and booking process.

  Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Mapping out key emotions  such as “joy” or “anticipation” to funnel stages will allow you an insight into the traveller emotional journey.

For each stage, there can be a unique emotion attached, which can morph or segue into the next stage, as shown in the map below:

(Click on the image to open a larger version in a new window)

GA Jan17 emotion pic 550w

Understanding the unique relations between these will help you in establishing better conversion strategies.


This information can also be segmented or grouped by customer cluster. Millennials, for instance, have a longer post-trip experience as they share photos and notes on social media, extending the trip’s emotional fallout.

The inspiration stage is different across different groups as well.

Brick-and-mortar travel agencies play an important role for older passengers in the UK and other countries, but this is not so much the case with younger segments, where social proof comes mainly from social media and personal recommendations.

By considering a combination of differentiating market segments and client categories, differentiating demand type, and booking schedule, returns can be optimised. A strong analysis of these three dimensions will allow you to map out the customer journey complete with emotional triggers, touchpoints and relevant persuasion techniques.

The emotional journey

Knowing the emotional journey of the client will not only help to optimize targeted customer communication but also tell you where persuasion can be most effectively applied.

Conversion goes hand in hand with emotion, and persuasion is the weapon of choice in nudging travellers towards a decision that feels rewarding and reassuring to them

Applying persuasion principles such as scarcity and social proof can increase conversion by directly appealing to the client’s emotional frame of mind. For example, online booking can be stressful so travel firms should reassure clients by, say, highlighting the website’s security or providing a telephone contact for any problems.

Bringing in the numbers

Researching into emotional triggers has a huge component of qualitative methodology, but quantitative plays a very important role as well. Quantitative data can help you to test and validate hypotheses on a larger scale.

Information extracted from face-to-face interviews and user sessions can be complemented with biofeedback and electroencephalography data.

Appropriate equipment can be easily rented or acquired, and will show when users are most tense or relaxed when shown pictures of or confronted with typical scenarios such as checking in or purchasing a ticket.

You can also combine and compare this quantitative data with survey-based methods, exploring these scenarios and perceptions based on the same booking flow.

The customer experience is holistic, and the result of different emotional and cognitive responses to the  travel supplier’s presentation, interface, and support.

The emotional tipping point for conversion is largely connected with “positive stress”.

An effective way to stimulate a deeper connection to the client is focus on the  reward mechanism. The funnel procedure feels less taxing to the user when a conversion is equated with an achievement. Small bonuses or discounts such as free travel guides or ancillaries – can be made to feel like a reward.

From awareness to value

Building awareness is the first step into making a brand more memorable, and appealing to emotion can be key to raising that awareness.

A positive emotional experience will promote social media word-of-mouth and impact loyalty. Emotions such as joy, excitement, annoyance or discontentment play a key role in determining future loyalty.


Quantitative and qualitative research can be combined in order to directly draw a strategy for conversion optimization based on emotional data, and help inform the look and feel of a site and its booking paths.

NB: This is a viewpoint by Alberto Ferreira, UX researcher. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of his employer.

NB2: Image by Wavebreak Media/BigStock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Ian R Clayton

    This is so true. Understanding the travelers emotional journey is key to building a responsive and effective sales funnel. Travelers are also responding extremely well to personality based search and Hotel Matching that pairs hotel and accommodation alternatives with travelers based of personality and character. It is the reason why we have built PersonaHolidays.com – The experience has proven that travelers respond well to personal and emotional understanding. We have seen seen engagement and bookings conversion double in its first installation for a major destination marketing organization.


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