In-depth review of travel reviews – gaming the system, popularity and more
What is the travelling public’s perception of travel reviews? Are they valuable or gamed to death? Or still a vital cog in the machinery of a purchase?
The Worms University of Applied Sciences has pulled together research on reliance on review sites, how credible they are considered and what consumers like to see.
The study from the institution’s Department of Tourism reveals more than half of hotel customers always consult review site before booking.
Of the 1,021 internet users surveyed, about 17% say review sites are essential to booking, 31% say important and 48% say important but recognise the need to handle with care.
The study, carried out in conjunction with ITB Berlin, also reveals how consumers rate review sites as an information source with 46% saying they are the most important source for choosing hotels/accommodation while, 28% say the website is most important and almost 20% say friends and acquaintances.
When it comes to credibility the findings are interesting and the study reveals some figures around the cost of gaming the various systems when it comes to purchasing likes, fans, followers and fake reviews.
Despite this, some 86% say they find reviews credible or very credible.
Further findings from consumers include:
- 70% of users of review sites look at up to 20 reviews and more than 16% between 21 and 30.
- 85% of consumers consider reviews as credible if there is comparable content, 51% like to see authentic wording, almost 46% say pictures and videos and 39% like them to be very current.
- When it comes to doubting a review’s authenticity, participants say 65% say if it differs greatly to others, 47% say if it’s too ‘gushing’ and 42% if its worded like a brochure.
- For more than 70% of respondents, the hotels correspond to the reviews read in advance and for more than 20%, the hotels were better than the reviews said.
- When reads a review they have doubts about, 35% don’t book, almost 50% do nothing and almost 19% discuss with friends and acquaintances. Almost 14% avoided the customer review site.
The study also asked reviews sites to assess themselves in terms of manipulation with TripAdvisor not specifying, Expedia saying 0.3%, HRS less than 1%, HolidayCheck less than 1% and Zoover, less than 1%.
This is interesting in light of responses from the sites’ users as well as hoteliers with 41% of consumers and 37% of hoteliers saying there were definitely fake reviews on the sites and 31% of consumers and 27% of hoteliers saying there are probably fake reviews on the sites.
When it comes to the estimated share of fake reviews on sites, 29% of respondents believe it’s high, 58% say not so high and 13% say it’s low.
The research also included interviews with hotels across Europe with highlights including:
- 60% encourage reviews via personal contact at reception, 36% via phone, email or a letter and 24% via fliers and posters.
- Hotels in Germany spent five hours reviewing their own reviews per month and three hours reviewing competitors, Italy was 10 hours per month on its own reviews and five hours on competitors and Spain was 12 hours on its own reviews and eight on competitors.
- Only 22% use software to help them manage reviews.
- About half say they have experienced fake reviews.
The following slide shows the impact of reviews on hotels in terms of new guests, the hotel’s image and bookings.
NB: The study was carried out between December 1 2013 and January 31 2014. The 1021 participants consisted of two thirds women and one third men with 37% aged between 25 and 34. More than 1,500 hotels also responded across Europe including Germany, Italy, Turkey and Spain.
NB2: Online review image via Shutterstock.
Linda Fox is deputy editor for Tnooz. For the past eight years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.
In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.
Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.