The Future of How Travelers Evaluate Hotels

By Alan Young SVP Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, TrustYou | April 27, 2014

The Changing Review Landscape

Ten years ago, travelers had to base their booking decisions on traditional advertisements and marketing. This was the only available information to go off of when booking. Then, user-generated content came along and changed everything, introducing user-generated content to the travel industry. Travelers could turn to the opinions of their peers to get an inside look at what the hotel was really like.

Now, there are hundreds of platforms where travelers can write reviews and voice their opinions. These platforms are home to an abundance of content – hundreds of millions of reviews. Traveler reviews have rapidly become a highly influential element of the travel shopping process – they can inspire consumers to hit the "buy" button or quickly sour the view of a property. The explosion of travel review content has dramatically increased transparency and provided consumers with a wealth of detailed information about individual hotel properties worldwide.

Yet the proliferation of user-generated content has also created new challenges. Travelers have so much information at their fingertips that many have trouble making sense of it all. For hoteliers, it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of the enormous volume of sentiments generated about their properties and even harder to anticipate or influence what travelers are reading.

According to an independent PhoCusWright study commissioned by TripAdvisor, 80% of travelers read at least 6-12 reviews before booking a hotel. While that may sound like a decent sampling, reading a handful of recent reviews for the average hotel often yields conflicting sentiments. While the "wisdom of the crowd" says that the truth will prevail, the way many travelers have traditionally used hotel reviews has made it easy for hotel shoppers to get the wrong idea. Even if the reviews are largely positive, they may do little to differentiate the property from other similar options. What's more, reading this many reviews is time consuming and tedious for the average traveler. Who has that much time to spend doing travel research?

In the context of this content overload, hoteliers, intermediaries and traveler review websites are all recognizing the need to provide travelers with tools to help them more quickly and effectively assess a property's value based on user-generated content. TrustYou's mission is to positively influence traveler's decisions – and to accomplish that goal we have developed technologies designed to help both travelers and travel companies make sense of the vast universe of online reviews and social media sentiments.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.