While I consider myself to be reasonably well traveled, my appetite for future travel is endless – there are always more places I want to go and things I want to see and do.
As a result, I consider that the greatest gift that social media has provided me with is travel websites that provide user generated content in the form of reviews of accommodation, places to eat and things to do.
In Australia, there are many accommodation websites that include online traveller reviews of accommodation. Websites that I’ve used in for this in the past include: Agoda, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Lastminute, Trip Advisor, Trivago and Wotif.
Value of travel market
Clearly there’s a lot at stake as companies compete in the travel market. In a recent letter to its shareholders Trip Advisor (2017, para. 2) stated that the global travel market is worth $1.3 trillion. Travel websites that publish travellers’ reviews have contributed to the democratisation of reviewing. These reviews are a bonus for the traveller who wants to use this information to customize and maximise their experiences.
Out of date hard copy guides
Hard copy guides are well and good when you don’t have access to the internet and need to check something. However these guides are often out of date by the time they are published and in the ever changing travel market their usefulness can be limited. Kepnes (2017) notes that the general consensus about Lonely Planet travel guides is that they have become ‘…more out of date, the writing has lost its edge, the guides have gotten more upscale and less about offbeat and budget destinations’.
‘Prickly old movie critics’
Others note that:
Professional travel reviewers are like prickly old movie critics – once they’ve done enough travelling, dining and lodging, they can become weary and entitled, taking for granted the joys that accompany nightly turn-down service (CNN Travel 2014, para.1).
All I want is a clean room, comfy bed and a good night’s sleep
Everyone knows that accommodation can make or break a holiday or trip. Travelling is often stressful, flights can be delayed and getting to your accommodation can often be an ordeal in itself. Therefore, it’s important that your accommodation provides you with exactly what you need in order to enjoy your travel experience – including getting a good night’s sleep.
Accommodation that does not meet your travel needs and expectations can negatively impact on your trip. In Australia, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL 2013) covers consumer purchases of goods and services. For further information see ACL Customer Guarantees
Benefiting from others shared experiences
Personally, I appreciate the fact that reviews on accommodation websites are provided by travellers, free of charge and provide useful feedback. In my experience this brings authenticity and honesty to reviews because the consumers of the accommodation are not responsible for the accommodation’s publicity, or its fortunes.
Reviews that are unpaid and voluntarily submitted are more likely to be an accurate reflection of reviewers experiences of the accommodation as the reviewer’s purpose is altruistic ie written to help a fellow traveller out. I have tested reviews published on the accommodation websites listed above and find the reviews by travellers on Trip Advisor to be the most reliable.
Contributor to Trip Advisor
I have been a contributor to the TripAdvisor website since September 2013.
As I rely on others reviews to help me to decide which accommodation to book, I like to pay the favour forward and help other travellers out by passing on my experience and any information that I think maybe helpful. No one is obliged to read my review of the accommodation or accept my views.
‘Pettiness and hysteria’
Interestingly there are those who lament the advent of the general public publishing their travel reviews online. There are many accommodation providers who do not believe the adage that the ‘customer is always right’.
Cochrane (2011) notes that some five-star international hotelier executives are astonished by the ‘pettiness’ and ‘hysteria’ of some of their customers complaints. He states that some accommodation providers believe there are a number of online accommodation reviews that are false, defamatory, contradictory, malicious and posted by competitors.
Unique booking processes
However in my experience individuals are likely to develop their own unique process of interacting with these reviews before making a booking. The following podcast with Serhan Hanser outlines just one of these approaches.
Accommodation in Merzouga, on edge of Sahara Desert, Morocco by John Shaw
Responding to guests reviews
Some hoteliers believe that publicly disagreeing with poor reviews often results in a significant negative response from the public – as shown in the recent High Rocks restaurant case.Responses to accommodation providers criticisms include observations that most travel websites provide the opportunity for hotel staff to respond to guests’ reviews. Anderson and Han (2016) have found that:
responding to negative reviews boosted a hotel’s Trip Advisor score more than when management responded to favourable comments. Responding to reviews, particularly negative reviews, appears positively related to the consumer’s view of the hotel.
A tremendous business opportunity
Other advantages for accommodation providers in guests posting their reviews is that it provides providers with free, real-time feedback about how the business is performing including information on areas of strength and weakness. If acted upon this feedback may help to improve the service and quality of the accommodation. This in turn may result in improved reviews and increase revenue.
Improved global accommodation standards
Whatever course of action providers take one things is for certain, in increasing numbers the public will continue to read and publish reviews of accommodation on travel websites. Providers can either harness this opportunity or ignore it at their own peril. This may in the end benefit guests – as those accommodation providers that won’t listen will lose business and be forced from the marketplace. This is likely in turn to lift the general standards globally of accommodation for guests.
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Trip Advisor 2017, Trip Advisor 2016 Annual Report and Notice of 2017 Annual Meeting and Proxy Statement, retrieved 20 August 2017, <http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/AMDAMMXS5/5046281795x0x929017/C9045B73-607A-406B-9480-072E08EFA611/TripAdvisor_2016_AR.pdf>.
Using Travel website reviews to book accommodation: Interview with Serhan Hanser 2017, podcast, Shaw M/ Sound Cloud/ maria-shaw-61459783, 6 September, retrieved 8 September 2017, <https://soundcloud.com/maria-shaw-61459783/using-travel-website-reviews-to-book-accommodation-interview-with-serhan-hanser>
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