Online reviews – Which are most valuable?
4th April 2012
TripAdvisor introduced a controversial ratings system in February that it was forced to remove after just one week, reported Neil Gerrard of Caterer and Hotelkeeper. The system allowed users to rate establishments local to them anonymously, without actually visiting them or leaving a review, using a function called a “pop-under”. One TripAdvisor reviewer explained, “….(users) were so fed up at the constant barrage of these pop-unders that they filled them all in with just one star (or in some cases five stars) in order to be rid of them.” The result was that business owners found their scores being skewed, often below their previous average, thus potentially damaging their business. The furore from both users and businesses led to the feature being removed.
The one difference between TripAdvisor and the reviews on Online Travel Agent Sites (OTA’s) is that anyone can log in to Trip Advisor and give a review of a hotel even if they have not stayed there. Whereas if you book via an OTA. after your stay, you are asked to give a review. So I think there is more credibility to these reviews and scores. I am sure the majority of the TripAdvisor reviews are genuine, but you definitely know that on the OTA’s the reviews are from people who have definitely stayed. So which reviews do customers think the most of?
In PhoCusWright’s Travel Report Third Edition 2011, travellers were asked the following: ‘Please indicate how influential each online feature is to you when planning leisure travel’. The most influential item was ‘Interactive maps that display lodging and attractions’ at 75% of respondents saying it was very or somewhat influential. However some good news in this survey was that in second place 73% of respondents stated that ‘Traveller reviews on OTA’s’ was very or somewhat influential, compared to a score of 67% for ‘Traveller review websites, such as TripAdvisor.’
I think it is good that customers are sufficiently savvy to realise that the OTA reviews from genuine travellers are the most reliable and therefore influential in travellers decision-making.
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