Online travel review site TripAdvisor’s recent survey of more than 23,000 users found 79 percent were more likely to book a hotel with a higher bubble rating when choosing between two otherwise identical properties and 52 percent would never book a hotel with no reviews.

TRAVELERS AROUND THE world use and trust online reviews by other travelers in most of their booking decisions, according to research from one of the largest caches of those reviews, The company said specifically that people are more likely to book hotels with higher reviews, a finding backed by other studies.

With collaboration from market research company Ipsos MORI, TripAdvisor conducted a survey of more than 23,000 users globally regarding their experiences with the company’s reviews. They found that 85 percent of participants said the reviews on TripAdvisor accurately reflected their experience, and 86 percent agreeing that TripAdvisor makes them feel more confident in their booking decisions.

It also found that 79 percent were more likely to book a hotel with a higher bubble rating when choosing between two otherwise identical properties and 52 percent would never book a hotel with no reviews.

“These findings show how important travelers find real perspectives from real people when they are planning their trips,” said Becky Foley, senior director for trust and safety at TripAdvisor. “While there are thousands of places to get travel information online, people keep coming back to TripAdvisor because they are guided by the reviews and can confidently plan the trip that’s right for them.”

Among other findings in the survey are:

  • 72 percent of respondents always or frequently read reviews before making a decision on places to stay and eat.
  • 81 percent always or frequently read reviews before booking a place to stay.
  • 78 percent focus on the most recent reviews.
  • 55 percent read multiple reviews across several pages to get an overall sense of people’s opinions.

Other research has focused on the importance of online reviews in finding guests for hotels. Last year, a study from Cornell University School of Hotel Administration found that travelers consider a hotel’s brand more than chain scale segment or location in writing reviews that influence the hotel’s online reputation. The study, “Indexing Hotel Brand Reputation” by faculty members Chris Anderson and Saram Han, also found that reputations of hotels within a brand vary more than hotels among competing brands, and under-performers can drag down an entire brand’s reputation.

“Despite that distinction based on segmentation, it turns out that brand reputation and consistency are more critical than originally thought,” Anderson and Han write in the study. “The research presented in this report has found greater variation in reputation across brands than across segments.”

Online reviews have allowed small, independent hotels to close the revenue gap with large brand franchises by more than 50 percent since 2015, according to another study, “Online Reputation Mechanisms and the Decreasing Value of Brands,” published in the Journal of Marketing Research in 2017 by Brett Hollenbeck, assistant professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“The spillover of reputation across products sold under the same brand should decrease, and with it the value of branding as a whole,” Hollenbeck wrote in the study. “Whether brands should react to this decrease in spillovers by investing less in quality of individual products or whether they should invest more in individual product quality and less in brand reputation remains an open question beyond the scope of this paper. But the results here do suggest this is likely to vary over the average quality level of the brand as well as the type of market or setting they are found in.”

More about how hotels can use customer engagement to increase and improve their online reviews is available in the cover story of September’s Asian Hospitality.