Lonely Planet Writer

Thorn Tree: results of the 2015 annual survey

Every year we take the opportunity to run a comprehensive survey of the users of our travel forum, Thorn Tree. Our aim is to better understand the needs of our online community so that we can keep its members at the heart of our plans for the future.

We’ve framed our analysis to address the following:

- who the community are and how they like to travel
- why they come to Thorn Tree and how often they visit
- what they like and don’t like, and how we can continue to improve Thorn Tree

This year marks our third consecutive year performing such a detailed analysis (previous survey results are available here: 2014, 2013), and we’re pleased to be able to share some of the results.

Thorn Tree survey 2015 1 (1)

Who visits Thorn Tree?

With survey responses received from users in almost 100 different countries, we’re proud to host an extremely geographically diverse community of travellers.

TT Results Graph 1

Thorn Tree welcomes plenty of new members freshly-bitten by the travel bug, but over 75% of survey respondents identify themselves as more than just occasional globetrotters. 6% of members are in the enviable position of being on the road constantly.

TT Results Graph 2

How is Thorn Tree used?

Community use patterns mirror those from last year’s survey, with a steady core of regular (21%) and occasional (also 21%) visitors regardless of travel plans. This varied and long-standing spread of members can also be seen by the even distribution in Thorn Tree account age, and we consider ourselves fortunate to maintain such wide appeal to newcomers and veterans of 10+ years alike.

TT Results Graph 3

4!

When is Thorn Tree most valuable?

We’re often curious about what brings our more sporadic visitors to Thorn Tree, and – consistent with the results from past years – the forums still excel in usefulness while planning travel (over 30% class it as ‘very useful’ and a further 55% ‘quite useful’).

Those who also make use of Thorn Tree during the travel process itself rate it reasonably well (76% either ‘very useful’ or ‘quite useful’), but we may have some more work to do before it’s seen as an equally valuable resource during travel as it is for the preparation stages!

TT Results Graph 5

How well does Thorn Tree meet traveller needs?

Travellers who kindly took the time to complete this year’s survey will have noticed how detailed the second half was, as we asked respondents to rate individual aspects of the platform. These satisfaction ratings have given us extremely valuable information to analyse, especially when compared to figures from 2014.

TT Results Graph 6

TT Results Graph 7

When it comes to new features released in 2015, we have no data from previous years to refer to. So it’s been extremely encouraging to see a majority of positive ratings from members who’ve tried out some of the new functionality (over 85% average satisfaction)… but it’s also been clear that we need to raise more awareness that these features exist in the first place!

TT Results Graph 8

What next for Thorn Tree in 2016?

Thorn Tree will be 20 years old in 2016, and we’re not stopping there. Our technical team are keen to keep expanding and improving the user experience on Thorn Tree, so the latter part of the survey focused heavily on ideas and suggestions for future features (sourced, in part, directly from forum users).

We grouped this year’s questions into five main categories – landing page improvements; a new member dashboard for signed-in users; hosting and displaying images on Thorn Tree; ways to highlight and feature important content; and some final miscellaneous ideas – and we asked travellers to rate their interest and likelihood of using these new features.

With a wealth of fantastic feedback received, we could barely hope to capture it all in a single graphic… not that we haven’t tried anyway, mind you!

TT Results Graph 9

We’ll be aiming to bring you a series of further blog posts in 2016, delving deeper into the insights you’ve given us and potentially also looking to showcase features. In the meantime, we’ll be opening some topics corresponding to these five categories in our ‘Community FAQs & feedback’ forum branch to serve as a starting point for more discussions in the new year, so we hope to see some of you there!

We’d like to extend our gratitude and thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the survey. We place great importance on listening to our members, and we’ll do everything we can to use your feedback to keep improving in 2016.