A Mat­ter of Opin­ion

User re­view sites are a pow­er­ful force for the con­sumer, but what’s be­ing done to en­sure au­then­tic­ity?

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Rose Dykins

User re­view sites are a pow­er­ful force for the con­sumer, but what’s be­ing done to en­sure au­then­tic­ity?

In 2000, four years be­fore any­one had even heard of Face­book, Trip Ad­vi­sor was founded, paving the way for user­gen­er­ated con­tent (UGC). Fast-for­ward 13 years and Trip Ad­vi­sor re­mains the Go­liath of the travel user re­view in­dus­try – the US site now boasts more than 200 mil­lion unique users a month, 100 mil­lion re­views and opin­ions, and more than 60 new con­tri­bu­tions a minute. The sheer breadth of its re­views are its tour de force, and chief ex­ec­u­tive and founder Stephen Kaufer has es­ti­mated that 10 per­cent of all trav­el­ers use the site to plan their trips.

At the same time, other web sites are emerg­ing with dif­fer­ent types of UGC – be it more fo­cused, more at­trac­tive or more au­then­tic.

And today, trav­el­ers armed with smart­phones and tablets are tak­ing their opin­ions – and the opin­ions of mil­lions of their clos­est friends – on the road with them. Ac­cord­ingly, Trip Ad­vi­sor and its com­peti­tors have adapted to the mo­bile en­vi­ron­ment with down­load­able apps and mo­bile-friendly web sites.

Ev­ery­one from ca­sual pas­sen­gers to se­nior ex­ec­u­tives have at their thumbtips in­stant and un­fet­tered ac­cess to opin­ions about ev­ery step along the travel chain. The changes in travel mar­ket­ing wrought by the UGCs that lived on desk­tops a decade ago were dramatic, but they pale in com­par­i­son with the tec­tonic shifts brought about by mo­bile tech­nol­ogy today.

Such is the in­flu­ence of con­sumer opin­ion that it’s been found to have a di­rect effect on ho­tel room rates. Last year, Cor­nell Univer­sity’s Cen­ter for Hos­pi­tal­ity Re­search pub­lished The Im­pact of So­cial Me­dia on Lodg­ing Per­for­mance, a re­port that an­a­lyzed data from Re­viewpro, STR, Trav­e­loc­ity, Coms­core and Trip Ad­vi­sor.“If a ho­tel in­creases its scores by one point on a five-point scale – say, from 3.3 to 4.3 – it can in­crease its price by 11.2 per­cent and still main­tain the same oc­cu­pancy or mar­ket share,”the study found.

In an era where on­line rep­u­ta­tion is ev­ery­thing, such sites have the power to make or break a ho­tel or air­line, and the travel in­dus­try is fully aware of that fact. Dutchyan­kee, a con­trib­u­tor to our on­line fo­rum (busi­nesstrav­elerusa.com/ dis­cus­sion), writes:“As a hote­lier, these re­view sites can have a di­rect im­pact on my busi­ness, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive. [With Trip Ad­vi­sor] fic­ti­tious re­views are ram­pant and com­peti­tors can leave neg­a­tive re­views. The sys­tem has faults but it is one web site we can­not af­ford to ig­nore.”

Fol­low­ing a com­plaint from on­line rep­u­ta­tion spe­cial­ist Kwikchex last year, the Ad­ver­tis­ing Stan­dards Au­thor­ity in the UK ruled that Trip Ad­vi­sor had to drop its “re­views you can trust”slo­gan ow­ing to a com­plaint from thou­sands of hote­liers over al­legedly fake or defam­a­tory re­views. It’s a

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.