When it comes to UGC in the travel industry such as reviews, the level of trust readers place in the content is crucial to its effectiveness. Consumers are increasingly turning to online reviews when selecting their hotels in particular. With this in mind, Tnooz recently published a series of interesting statistics regarding how online hotel reviews are perceived.
Online reviews are trusted by the vast majority of travellers (95%), and they are an essential part of the hotel booking process, with 78% claiming reviews help them feel more confident in their decisions, and just over half stating that they wouldn’t book a hotel that has no reviews. As compared to other media sources, reviews have been more trusted than brand websites and newspaper ads since 2009, with approximately 70% of people trusting them, as opposed to under 60% for brand sites and under 50% for newspapers.
Why are online reviews so trusted? The information found in reviews matches up to what travellers subsequently experience during their stays. 80% found this to be the case, with less than a fifth of respondents claiming the reviews clashed with their own opinions. For 15%, the hotels actually exceeded review-determined expectations, while in 5% of cases the reviews overhyped hotels. According to travellers, the main criteria that increase travellers’ trust in online reviews is the number of reviews, followed by pictures and images and then the quality and level of detail in a review. Many review sites don’t seem to be aware of this impact, with 41% not offering reviewers the option to upload photos. Additionally, only 19% all review sites require verification.
Hotels’ Role in Online Reviewing
Hotel management’s responses to online reviews of them play a big part in creating impressions on travellers. The vast majority (74%) of travellers believe that the hotel cares about them and offers good service when they respond to reviews. Even more of them are impacted by the nature of the response; where management responds appropriately to reviews, positive or negative, 84% of travellers’ impression of the hotel is improved. Again, most review sites do not seem to be aware of this, or at least have not adapted to suit this information, with under a fifth of all sites allowing hotels to respond.
Fake reviews however are on the rise, with over 10% of social media reviews expected to be fake by 2014. These can be spotted via a couple of identifiers: strange usernames, very recently registered users, excessive exclamation marks, vague statements. Review sites are aware of this though, and are putting more and more effort into combatting such reviews. Algorithms are being developed to isolate fake reviews by picking up on identifiers such as those listed.
In terms of destinations and tourism organisations, these findings reflect the importance placed on having sound, trustworthy online reviews, and their influence on travellers. Hotels within destinations in particular must play a role in the impact of the reviews, providing measured responses, however the data does extend beyond just hotels, highlighting the importance of responding to UGC to reaffirm or downplay their statements and take control over the organisation’s online reputation.
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