As recently as the early 2000s, guests often used the room rates a given hotel charged as an indication of that property’s quality or value. But a scholarly study published in February 2013 found consumers were placing a far greater emphasis on a very different barometer: so-called “user-generated content” – notably online reviews of hotels from other travelers.
“Reviews are the most powerful value indicator for consumers,” noted one of the study’s authors, Kelly McGuire, in a subsequent blog post. “Our research overwhelmingly indicated that consumers look to the reviews over aggregate ratings to form quality and value perceptions … (And) in the presence of ratings and reviews, consumers do not use price as an indication of quality.”
Although the reviews consumers use are most commonly located on travel sites such as TripAdvisor, the growth of importance of user-generated content in their decision making highlights a key online arena that helps sway where they stay during travel: social media.
In one survey, 52 percent of respondents reported altering travel plans (with 33 percent changing hotels) at least partly because of research they had done on social media. Seeing friends’ holiday photos influences the vacation choices of 52 percent of Facebook users, according to Social Times.
With social media buzz being so vital in travel choices, it’s more important than ever for hotel companies to monitor what people are saying about them on sites like Facebook and Twitter. This checking process, called “social listening,” not only helps hoteliers turn people who make positive comments into brand ambassadors, but also aides in discovering and promptly responding to cyber criticisms.