The fulfilled vision of the 24/7 connected consumer poses ample challenges to marketers of tourism and travel products. Above all this includes dealing with opinionated and highly influential customers at the sharp end of the buying cycle. In particular hotel marketers try to understand the intricacies of it so they can tweak and adjust their marketing strategies and tactics to fit the new picture (Tnooz, 2013).
It is no breaking news that the rise of the likes of Tripadvisor or booking.com has changed the hotel business fundamentally, in the way that it has empowered consumers considerably. Almost total availability and transparency of information, as well as the power to publish customer reviews to a global audience has changed the rules of the game profoundly.
Therefore the hotel chain Arcor has commissioned a large study of consumers in Asia, to shed light on the role of social media before, during and after a hotel stay. A total of 5400 travellers in the 11 countries in the region were surveyed.
USER REVIEWS ON THE RISE
The survey confirmed the importance of consumer reviews in the decision making process of travelers. In total 28% of respondents stated that user reviews and ratings motivate them most when it comes to choosing a hotel. This finding underlines the importance of managing your brands online reputation, as over a quarter of consumers regard traditional decision making variables – such as price and location – not as the determining factor for making a purchase decision any more.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT IS KEY
Respondents have stated clearly that external review forums and social networking sites are perceived by far as the most trustworthy source of consumer reviews (40% each). In contrast consumers have almost no faith in internally managed review tools on hotel websites (13%). Given wide acceptance of consumer reviews in Asia, surprsingly few consumers use these tools to povide feedback (14%). The prime channel for giving feedback to hotels are still comment cards (29%). However, this is anything but the all-clear for hotel chains in Asia. Many studies (Touminen, 2011) confirm that especially people with outstanding experiences (positive and negative) tend to review travel services online. Therefore, hotel chains need to monitor and respond to feedback on external review forums. Otherwise the brand’s reputation and integrity is at stake.
SOCIAL IS HERE TO STAY
Overall the survey confirms that social media has become an integral part of the travel cycle. It has shown that this not only holds true for the mature, technology savvy markets in Europe and the US, but also in the emerging economies of Asia.
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