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Travellers have always used others’ recommendations and reviews during the planning stages of a trip, and now with the proliferation and popularity of online review sites, the scope of this feedback and as a result their impact has multiplied. Global websites such as HolidayCheck, Booking.com and trivago boast tens of millions of reviews for travellers to check, and TripAdvisor, the most popular site, hit 100 million in March 2013, with 50% increase in posted content year on year. (eMarketer)

Who’s Reviewing?

With the number of reviews and their worldwide accessibility, the influence travel sites have is consistently growing. As reported by eMarketer, TripAdvisor’s TripBarometer study found that over half of their 15,000 worldwide respondents had written a review for an accommodation after staying there and around 40% also shared such personal reviews via alternate channels such as social networks or email.

Where are they looking?

Given the wealth of reviews available online, coupled with the risk of fake reviews, travellers look to multiple sites during their research process. PhoCusWright (reported via eMarketer) found that in 2012, around 20% of US travellers used online travel agencies, general search engines and travel-specific review sites during their planning process, and about one third went straight to a hotel website.

Responding to your reviews

While reviews are influential across travel categories, hotel reviews most strongly impact travellers’ booking decisions. A TripAdvisor study found that over half of claimed they would be more likely to book a hotel whose management responded to reviews, compared to one whose management didn’t.

As stated by Flo Lugli, executive vice president of marketing at the Wyndham Hotel Group, “Marketing has gone through evolutions that basically have put consumers in charge, and we need to acknowledge that we’re no longer 100% in charge of our brand message. If marketers crowd source anything, they have to be willing to respond and implement the feedback in some way or form. When consumers are asked for their opinion, their expectation is that something will be done with it.”

With travellers paying a great deal of attention to reviews, and just as highly influenced by managements’ responses to these reviews, it is very important to keep attentive of what is being said about you. Feedback is essential and can transform even negative feedback into an opportunity to display a proactive and positive, helpful service. User-generated content in the form of reviews enables travel organisations to display their service offerings in advance of a traveller’s visit, as an additional tool to convince them during their planning process.

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