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Online reviews found on sites like Expedia, TripAdvisor, Trivago or Booking.com carry significant weight during the booking process. A study conducted by Simon Kucher & Partners asked UK travelers about the factors that influence their booking choices. Study participants concur that reading past guest reviews is the most important step in their decision-making process and takes place after a broader internet search for their travel destination.
The research reports that people read an average of 12 reviews before making a final selection. It also found that OTAs are considered the best source for non-biased opinions and a more objective sentiment than they would find on a destination’s own site, for example. TripAdvisor, as the name signifies, is the most popular platform with 70% of participants saying it is their main go-to site for insight into past guests’ thoughts on any given destination, followed by Booking.com and Expedia.
However, results vary by age and gender, making TripAdvisor and Booking.com the favorite among women, while Trivago and Expedia were mostly visited by men. For millennials, checking reviews is the first course of action and plays a bigger role when narrowing down their destination and accommodations compared to baby boomers who consult reviews much later in the process. While reading reviews, people find more value in those written by others they consider to be like themselves, whether that be gender, age or nationality. Other conditional factors can include reviews from past guests with similar needs, or similar travel purposes like business or family holidays. These aspects are considered better indicators when determining whether a property is a good fit.
Online reviews also provide benefits for destinations as they can offer honest feedback. They can also pose an opportunity for operators to manage the narrative by replying directly to possible outliers who may have had a negative experience that’s not in keeping with the property’s value proposition. Responding to all reviews also demonstrates a high level of customer service and demonstrates just how much guest opinions matter.
Not all negative reviews are bad. For instance, if a review mentions that a property is in an area without much nightlife, this may be considered a plus to those traveling with children who would rather stay where it’s less rowdy and more family oriented.
Online reviews can positively or negatively impact the reputation of any destination. For this reason, it’s incumbent upon hotel staff to not only monitor guest ratings and reviews in OTAs, but to also take matters into their own hands by continuously striving to provide guests with a memorable experience and personalized service that can be touted on the web.