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Travel reviews have shaped the tourism industry over the past years. Sometimes feared by service providers, sometimes criticised for being biased, but frequently used by tourists all around the world; review websites are one of the big success stories in online travel. Only recently, the leading review website TripAdvisor announced that it surpassed the 150 million review mark. The University of Applied Science Worms (Germany) has had a very close look at the perceptions, usage and acceptance of travel reviews (Tnooz).

TOURISTS' ADOPTION

Unsurprisingly the study has shown that reviews bear high importance among the sampled tourists. Roughly half of the respondents indicated that they always used travel reviews. 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. Review websites are not only used as a tool to confirm or disconfirm potential choices, but they are adopted increasingly for gaining inspiration. In fact more than 4 in 10 respondents identified them as the most important source for finding and choosing hotels. Especially the latter is a factor that DMOs take into account, as the integration of user reviews into their websites becomes a common industry practice.

CREDIBILITY OF REVIEWS

Over that past years media reports have highlighted the potential risk of fake user reviews. The study provides some interesting insights into the costs of purchasing fake reviews (about 5€ per review), fake Facebook fans (between 2 and 5 Ct) and other market prices of buying fake social media engagement. Nevertheless, this does not affect consumers attitude and confidence in the general credibility of reviews. In fact, some 86% say they find reviews credible or very credible. Thus, consumer reviews have established themselves as an authority on travel products and destinations. This is a significant opportunity for DMOs, as they  can create huge synergies by integrating them into their online presences in a smart way.

ISSUES OF FAKE REVIEWS

The study also asked the major player in the field 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 5%. Similarly consumers are aware of the fact that fake reviews exist on these sites, but the vast majority (71%) said that the number of fake reviews is probably ‘not so high’ or ‘low”. This high level of consumers’ trust in the overall truthfulness of reviews is not only based on perception, but is rather fuelled through positive experiences. 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.

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