How Travelers Perceive Online Hotel Reviews and Ratings

... and Strategies Businesses Can Use to Drive Bookings

By Chris Campbell Chief Tracking Officer, Review Trackers | November 10, 2013

Travel planning has changed. Just ask any Web-searching, smartphone-brandishing, Instagram-loving traveler who fires up Google or TripAdvisor to find hotels, Expedia and KAYAK to book flights, Lonely Planet or Fodor's to finalize itineraries and tours. One would say it was inevitable: the emergence of a new generation of travelers, who-with practically limitless sources of travel information-have essentially become their own agents. (The tech-savvy ones, at least.)

The impact of the Internet, social media, and mobile technology on the travel industry probably couldn't be more evident than in the way an increasing number of people now rely on consumer-generated online reviews. In TripBarometer, a comprehensive accommodation and traveler survey based on the responses of over 35,000 participants around the world (the survey was conducted by review site TripAdvisor and market research firm StrategyOne), 93 percent of travelers said that their booking decisions were influenced ('a lot' or 'slightly') by online reviews. Meanwhile, 44 percent said that they chose their last property based solely on other travelers' reviews; this group came third, next only to those who decided based on price (76 percent) and location (68 percent). In another TripAdvisor survey, conducted this time with Forrester, nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents said that they wouldn't book accommodations in a property that doesn't have online reviews.

In short: the power that reviews have to shape consumers' decisions is undeniable.

The Rise of TripAdvisor, Yelp, and More

If a growing number of travelers are demanding these types of online content for planning their trips, well-there is no shortage of people volunteering to supply the information, either. Last March, TripAdvisor reached an impressive new milestone: 100 million reviews and opinions since its inception, covering 116,000 destinations. Also, as of June 2013, the company's branded sites were averaging a total of more than 230 million unique monthly visitors. As traffic continues to surge, so does the number of reviews-plus, of course, the people reading and writing them.

"The rise of TripAdvisor as the defacto standard for customer feedback on our industry has rapidly occurred," wrote talent management professional and Hospitality Gal founder Janet Gerhard in a recent article published in HotelExecutive.com. "The stagnant crowded field of marketing research has opened the door to social media reviews quickly outpacing customer experience rankings, whether internal or external, because of their ease in understanding and real-time accessibility."

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