Tips for writing data-driven travel articles
(Drawing inspiration from data insights.)
As one of the editors at Unpacked* I spend most of my time squinting at data queries and muttering “how on Earth am I supposed to turn this into an article?”
Unpacked uses data from over 140,000,000 reviews to write travel articles, alongside internal insights on popular destinations, customer endorsements and specifically commissioned research.
These large data sets mean that we can be confident in the insights we pull, but it also means that there a lot of surprises along the way.
I’m still working out the best way to combine the inspirational nature of travel writing with data insights. But, for now, here are my hard-won tips for writing data-driven travel articles.
Learn to ask the right questions
For a writer, some questions are a dead-end.
“What is the most popular hotel in Amsterdam?” “What is the closest self-catered apartment to the Empire State Building?” “Do ryokans let pets stay?”
These questions can all be answered by a quick search on Booking.com and they definitely aren’t enough to kick-start an article. So what should you be asking?
Let the data help you solve a problem
I like to focus on questions that revolve around problem-solving. For example, beach holidays with young children have a reputation for being stressful.
I asked our in-house data analysts to pull a query on which beaches around the world have the highest rating among families travelling with young children.
From the list (which included a few surprises; apparently Croatian nudist beaches are especially popular among young families) I then selected the beaches with the shallowest water and ended up writing one of our most successful articles.
Use the past to predict the future
One of the best things about working with large sets of data is the insight we gain into travel trends.
While you don’t get much insight from asking “what destinations were most popular in 2017?”, it is possible to use those destinations to predict what will be popular in 2018.
By looking at which destinations were experiencing a growth in popularity during 2017, we can predict which places are going to be popular among travellers in 2018.
This eventually became an article: The top 10 trending destinations for 2018 and that inspired a spin-off series where we look at why travellers are loving these destinations so much.
Which meant that from one data query we ended up with inspiration for 11 articles.