Survey: What Travelers Are Looking For In Online Reviews
By Jaydeep ZilkaOn July 23, 2014
Online reviews play an important role when travelers are choosing a place to stay for their travel. The rise of travel sites, review websites, and social media has made it easy and convenient for travelers to look at others travel experiences and opinions. In one of the latest survey conducted by Software Advice, some of the results were obvious and some very surprising. This information can help hotels to understand customer behavior and changing trends among travelers.
In the latest survey conducted by Software Advice in which they chose 2,500 travelers to find out exactly what they look for in hotel reviews when booking a hotel. Staggering 79% of respondents said that they trust online reviews by other travelers on various travel and review websites as much as they trust recommendations coming from close family and friends.
One of the main objectives of the survey was to find out exactly how and why travelers use online reviews and what other aspects of these reviews they find most convincing when booking a hotel. You can read about the findings with important aspects with a corresponding charts highlighted below.
Large Number of Young Consumers Use Reviews Before Booking
When the survey asked travelers how often they checked online reviews of a hotel before booking a room, 46 percent of them used online reviews “sometimes,” “most of the time” or “always”.
Among the respondents, the largest group said they never checked online customer reviews and those who did use online reviews skewed younger: 30 percent of them belong to age group of 25 to 34 years old who used reviews most of the time, and 28 percent in the age bracket of 18-24 always use reviews.
Taylor Short of Software Advice, a company that evaluates hotel booking software had to say this regarding the trend among young travelers, “ Younger age groups between 18 to 34 are the most frequent users of online hotel reviews, most often to initially identify hotels to consider booking.”
These trends are a result of increasing internet access and mobile use, specifically among young travelers. The rise of review websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp is due to in large part to the increased use of Travel Apps and mobile browsing.
Majority of Reviews Are Used to Identity Possibilities
Next, the survey asked respondents on what exactly they were looking for when looking at online reviews before booking a hotel. 35 percent of them use to identity hotels to consider, while 28 percent use them to narrow down their choices to selected few.
19 percent of respondents use reviews to find the best price for their choice of hotels and rest 18 percent to confirm their final choice of hotel.
Internet is the first place to look for hotel and travel information for majority of the travelers today. The popularity of review websites providing all the information and photos can be easily accessed today via various devices easily. Today’s traveler directly search for for hotels on a review site instead of directly checking the website of the hotel or even calling the property.
Expedia is the Most Popular Online Hotel Review Website
Expedia came on top as the most popular online hotel review website when travelers were asked which site they use most often, with 38%. Popular travel review site TripAdvisor came in second with 28 percent and third was Hotels.com, at 25 percent.
Among other options, Booking.com, received 6 percent. Two percent of the travelers chose none of the above and entered their own choice of website, including Hotewire.com, Kayak.com or just a Google search.
TripAdvisor and Expedia generate traffic of 260 million and 60 million visitors per monthly respectively, both of the websites offer different services to the travelers, which accounts for these numbers.
TripAdvisor offers reviews and hotel information for travelers and directing them offsite to complete a booking. Expedia on other hand operates as a full-service travel site, selling multiple types of travel arrangements such as flights, car rentals and hotels from a single point, in addition to offering reviews.
TripAdvisor and Expedia Are the Most Trusted Review Websites
Now we know which websites were used by travelers, next was the question of which websites were the most trustworthy? Surprisingly even though most of the respondents used Expedia more than TripAdvisor, both websites were equally trusted, at 34 percent.
The rest of the results were pretty much the same as last set: 24 percent trusted Hotels.com, and 6 percent predominantly trust Booking.com
TripAdvisor was one of the first travel websites to embrace and promote user-generated content back in 2000, it is evident from their growth that majority of the travelers may prefer unfiltered reviews. In case of Expedia, it might not receive the same level of engagement but it does verify reviews with hotels by checking sales record ensuring that reviews are real. However, at the end the type of reviews come down to personal preference.
Taylor Short further adds “Travelers say they most often use Expedia over TripAdvisor to check online hotel reviews, but results show they trust both equally. This may be a result of each website offering different types of reviews.”
Most Important Review Information Is The Hotel Price
When travelers are looking at these online reviews, what is the most important information that they’re looking for? 58 percent responded say that the price of the room is important to them.
Other important information travelers look for in reviews includes proximity to local attractions (16 percent) and aesthetic features, such as the size of the room or the view (15 percent). Description of on-site amenities, such as a gym or restaurant received 10 percent of the vote.
In “Other” category, respondents were given a chance to enter their own answer, and everyone stated that information about room cleanliness was a big factor for them. Among rest of the comments mentioned “Safety,” “Quality” and “Overall Experience.”
There is, however, a significant difference when looking at how each gender answered the question. Out of 15 percent travelers for whom aesthetic features was important, 63 percent were female and rest 37 percent male. Conversely, of those who said on-site amenities were most important, 59 percent were male, versus 41 percent female.
Guest-Submitted Comments Most Enticing Review Element
We know price is an important factor to consumer looking at online hotel reviews, but we wanted to know other factors convinces them to book a room. We asked travelers what element would most entice them to book, and 40 percent say specific, guest-submitted comments in the reviews are most effective at driving their decision to purchase.
The next most enticing feature was the hotel’s percent or star rating according to 29 percent of the respondents and 18 percent sighting guest-submitted photos of the rooms. The least enticing element of a review, according to the results is the hotel’s ranking relative to other hotels in the area for 13 percent of the travelers.
While the last question revealed that price is a huge factor, this data shows that, with the amount of information available online, travelers are looking at the bigger picture to make decisions.
Nearly Half Wouldn’t Pay More for a Well-Reviewed Hotel
As much as travelers claim they value online reviews, our findings show they might not necessarily want to pay more for a room just because of positive reviews. 47 percent replied that they wouldn’t any more for a hotel with positive reviews over one without positive reviews.
30 percent of respondents say they would pay a “a little more” and other 17 percent said they would “moderately more” for rooms with positive reviews. Very few of the travelers said they would pay “much more” or “twice as much or more”.
As we can tell from the survey that online comments can entice consumers to book a room, it seems like they do not feel like paying much more for one with positive reviews. Many consumers tend to for the overall value which could be a result consumer behavior changing from the recent economic slump.
The survey results clearly show that 18 – 34 year-olds tend to use online reviews to find potential places to stay. TripAdvisor or Expedia generally used by this age group for looking at the price and user reviews. But they won’t spend much more for a hotel with positive reviews over one with without.
Majority of hospitality professionals today realize the impact of authentic guest reviews, and their primary target is the younger age groups, who are willing to spend more of their disposable income on travel.
Taylor Short stats “Many hotel brands have discovered the fact that using reputation management software helps them keep an eye for negative reviews across the Web. Having that information quicker means hotels can respond sooner and have more proactive presence online.”
As the survey concludes that knowing the most important aspects of your hotel’s online reviews and how consumers use them can really help your hotel’s marketing campaigns more efficiently. The marketing team can perform reputation management more effectively and entice the travelers to book with your hotel.