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Survey Reports Trends in Online Reviews for Hotels; On Average,
U.S. Adults Read Eight Reviews Prior to Booking a Hotel
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hotels.com reports on trends in online reviews; 
hits one million qualified reviews on the site

DALLAS, March 16, 2009 - Think you know all you need to about the hotel you just booked? If you did so without reading online reviews, you might want to think twice about your choice. hotels.com(R), a leading provider of lodging worldwide, notes that as travelers shop more carefully they are taking opinions of recent travelers into greater consideration. The site now features one million authentic reviews - all from guests who have booked through hotels.com and completed their stay.

Guest reviews are important to travelers for a number of reasons, according to Scott Booker, chief hotel expert and guest advocate at hotels.com. "Reviews help travelers filter an enormous amount of information about their possible hotel options, helping them find great properties and avoid the lousy ones. Also, reviews offer specific details about the stay that would be difficult to find elsewhere - such as feedback about excessive traffic noise, poor water pressure in the shower, or a first-rate complimentary breakfast. Travelers value the candid assessments that a recent hotel guest can provide - they want to learn from someone who's literally been there."

Different guests want different things from their trips, so not all reviews will be relevant to every traveler. A review from a family leisure traveler citing a small and crowded pool area may be a deal-breaker for another family traveler, but not a problem for the business guest who doesn't plan on spending time there.

Included below are key findings from a hotels.com survey of U.S. adults on their online travel planning habits. According to the survey, travelers are:

  • Spending more time online - On average, U.S. adults who use online resources to research and plan a vacation ("online vacation researchers") spend eight hours doing so, an increase of 48 minutes over the previous year.*
  • Reading several guest reviews - Online vacation researchers who read reviews when planning travel say they consult, on average, close to eight reviews prior to booking a hotel.**
  • Watching for red flags - People pay close attention to the negative experiences they read about in reviews. When asked what red flags would prevent them from booking a property, 96 percent of online vacation researchers who read guest reviews before booking a hotel said a dirty room, 95 percent said bed bugs, and bad location and rude staff tied at 85 percent.
  • Relying on reviews for family trips - Ninety-two percent of online vacation researchers who read guest reviews before booking a hotel said reviews are most helpful when planning a family vacation, followed by travel to an unfamiliar destination (89 percent).
  • Willing to share the good and bad about their hotel stay - While 23 percent of online vacation researchers acknowledged they were more likely to post a review after a negative property experience, the majority - 52 percent - said they were equally likely to post a review after a positive or negative experience. 
* Figures in the first bulleted segment refer to U.S. adults ages 18+ who use online resources to research and plan vacations
** Figures in the second-fifth bulleted segments refer to U.S. adults ages 18+ who use online resources to research and plan vacations AND read guest reviews prior to booking a hotel.

What to Look for in a Review

What constitutes a good, useful review? Booker notes that this will depend greatly on the traveler and the type of trip being planned. "Generally speaking, a useful review is one that helps the traveler move closer to a decision to book or avoid a particular property." 

On hotels.com, guests are writing frequently about five areas - location, renovations, quality of service, kitchen space, and value. As you plan your next hotel stay, look for these points to help you pick the right property: 

  • Location of property - Do reviewers note the hotel's convenience to shopping, popular landmarks, restaurants and more? If these places are within walking distance, the traveler may not need a car on the trip. If the hotel only has a pricey restaurant on-site - or no dining options at all - having other choices nearby is often an important consideration.
  • Property renovations - Reviewers often include details about recent remodels to rooms or common areas, which can make a stay more pleasant. Are recent guests commenting on a property's new linens, fresh paint or flat-screen TVs? Are they noting points that may have been missed during upgrades? 
  • Kitchen space and supplies - These amenities are noted often by family travelers who have stayed in vacation rental or suite-style accommodations. Do reviewers state that they had all the equipment they needed to cook and serve a meal? Is the kitchen space a reasonable size, and are appliances in working order? If not, consider a different property. 
  • Quality of service - Was the front desk helpful to the guest at check-in and throughout the stay? Were requests for repairs and orders for room service handled quickly? 
  • Value - Perhaps the most important points to look for in a review relate to value: Do recent guests say the property was a great value for the money? Would they stay there again? If two properties seem identical, but reviews for one cite value repeatedly, that property may be the best bet for the trip.
Some of our Favorite Reviews on hotels.com® http://www.hotels.com
There’s no question – travelers have no shortage of opinions about their recent hotels stays and are willing to share them.  Good, bad and indifferent, other travelers rely on this feedback to help them book the right property for their trips.  Here are some of our favorite reviews, based on the amount of detail they offer to prospective travelers who are trying to find the right property for their trip.

If you want to be centrally located to explore the unique and living residential neighborhoods and ethnic restaurants that make this such a rich and interesting place to visit stay at this hotel. Rooms are spacious and clean, service is friendly and it is a fantastic deal for the price. We were both very happy with our selection. Only problem is limited parking at the hotel.

Recently remodeled, however it could have used a walk-through after the fact.  We found the toilet not fastened too securely to the floor. The fan in the bath needed more force.

The breakfast buffet was fantastic (and my wife lives or dies by breakfast buffets): four different kinds of juices, various breads, croissants, rolls, meats, cheeses, cereals, hot foods, breakfast cakes, fresh fruit, coffees. There is a cappuccino machine that you can get yourself, but ask the servers behind the table to fix a "fresh" cup for you, and they'll bring it to you, too. Our son was able to find plenty to eat as well.

This “non-smoking” room reeked of smoke; the carpets were full of burn holes. 

Room was fine and beds were OK.  Fine for a brief, overnight stay versus having to drive home late at night.  Wouldn’t stay there for a vacation.

Every time we left or returned to the hotel, we were addressed by our names and waited on as if we were VIPs. We needed directions to a restaurant and a lovely employee walked us through the hotel via a short-cut to the part of the street we needed to go. What a hotel!  It more than exceeded my expectations.

The tub was dirty, the pillowcases had stains on them, there was only one functional outlet in the room, no mirror or phone in the room, the elevator was broken, I borrowed an iron which turned out to have black goo melted on the face of it (luckily I tested it on a towel before I used it on my suit). I chose this hotel because it was cheap, but in the future I would probably pay more for a little better quality.

I was there for four days.  The room smelled of dog.  It was a nightmare.

Parking is non-existent; to save a few bucks, park at the 16th street garage

You can catch a bus just outside that will take you to the downtown for only a dollar a person.  Fresh, updated, clean room with fridge, microwave and coffee pot.  Very nice continental breakfast.  We would definitely stay here again and have mentioned it to others.  Exceptional value! 

The water didn’t get very warm so it was not pleasant taking a shower.  The beds were too soft.  The walls were like paper, you could hear everything from surrounding rooms and outside.  I was expecting a lot more for what I paid.

In town for just one night before boarding a cruise; this hotel is PERFECT for this type of scenario.  We found the entire staff to be impossibly polite and helpful.  Great room for the money.  I would stay there again.

This hotel is designed to reflect an over-the-top air of ritziness that often crosses into gaudiness.  The restaurant showed more attention to appearances than taste.

One of my all-time favorite hotels.  The front desk is truly multi-lingual; there doesn’t seem to be a language they don’t speak.  They went above and beyond the call of duty. They recommended restaurants where the locals eat, taught us how to use the public transit, and one of them offered to let us use his personal cell phone when we had issues with the phone card we purchased.

The condo was too old.  Needs updating and new carpet.  There was an insect problem in my room.

I was surprised by the sparkling updated bathroom, the fastest wireless internet of any hotel I’ve ever been in; and a convenient location at a great price.  It will never make the cover of any architectural or interior design magazine, but for giving the traveler all he/she needs it’s all there for a good value.

About the survey 
This Travel Reviews survey was conducted by telephone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of hotels.com in the fourth quarter of 2008 among 1,001 U.S. adults ages 18+, of whom, 566 use online resources to research and plan a vacation, and 382 have also ever read guest reviews before booking a hotel. 

About hotels.com
hotels.com(R) is the leading provider of lodging worldwide, offering an extensive selection of more than 85,000 properties ranging from traditional hotels and vacation rentals to bed and breakfasts and all-inclusive resorts. hotels.com serves as an advocate for guests before, during and after their property stay. To help travelers choose the right property for each trip, the company provides a variety of tools and features, including property descriptions, guest reviews, rate calendars, maps, virtual tours, and more. hotels.com offers additional value for guests through its Price Match Guarantee, Flexible Booking(TM) and welcomerewards(TM) programs. For more information, please visit hotels.com or call 1-800-2-HOTELS. hotels.com is an operating company of Expedia, Inc. (Nasdaq: EXPE). Hotels.com and the Hotels.com logo are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Hotels.com, LP, a subsidiary of Hotels.com. Other logos or products and company names mentioned herein may be the property of their respective owners

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Also See: How Do You Align Search and Social Media to Achieve Optimal Results? Social Media Strategies for Travel Special / February 2009
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