This article was originally published on Tnooz.com. The original content can be found here.
Verified review summaries are key to getting travel planning and booking back on DMO and hotel sites.
NB: This article is written by Alan Young, SVP of marketing and strategic partnerships at TrustYou.
Review sites are the number one influencer of traveler decisions (as many as 69% of travelers say so, according to a 2013 TripAdvisor TripBarometer”).
Many travel review sites have parlayed this popularity to become booking engines, while DMOs and hotels have watched their visibility in the travel planning process decline.
In order for hotels and DMOs to continue to be relevant in the planning process, embracing travel reviews is essential, and in order to bring travelers back, destinations must do travel reviews differently.
Travelers visit between six and twelve review sites in the average planning process, according to a TripAdvisor survey, and the average traveler visits 22 websites while researching and booking a trip.
In order to be truly competitive and bring travelers back to the destination to plan, it’s time to make travel reviews more accessible, more streamlined, and more trustworthy.
Travelers want to book their vacation quickly and confidently. Sifting through review after review is confusing and, let’s face it, kind of mind numbing.
The next wave in reviews is high-level review summaries that are verified, saving travelers time reading reviews and removing doubts about the truthfulness of the authors.
Verified review summaries use meta-data to sort reviews across all the review sites that offer verified reviews, remove the extremes, and hone in on the true highs and lows of a property or destination.
They can be presented in different ways—as ratings, as word clouds, or as a series of bullets points. The benefits to posting verified review summaries on DMO and hotel websites are greater than simply becoming more visible online.
1. Shortens decision time, this means more travel $$
By giving travelers high-level summaries and assuaging doubts about fraudulent reviews, travelers are able to make decisions more quickly.
Compared to site visitors that did not read reviews, review readers in the travel category experience average lift of 52% in page views per visit, 83% in time on site, 25% in repeat visits, 77% in conversion, and 61% in revenue per visit.
Less time reading reviews and more time planning means more spa appointments, more reading about activities, more restaurant reservations planned in advance.
2. Fewer extremes = more conversions
Extreme reviews are the bane of the hotel industry. Turns out travelers don’t like them either. Sixty-four percent of review readers ignore extreme comments, but in order to ignore it first they have to read it.
Review summaries weed out the extremes naturally and focus on the high-level information travelers really want – overall hotel property, service, and amenities ratings.
3. Increases destination branding
Right now, OTAs are the number once source for travel reviews, while only a third of travelers currently go to a hotel website to read reviews. DMOs aren’t even on the radar as online sources for reviews.
In a digital world where brands are less and less able to control their image, it makes sense to embrace reviews, draw travelers to the destination/hotel site, and be ready with clear messaging that will seal the deal.
Whether travelers book through an OTA isn’t so much the issue as a brand’s ability to be present and visible.
In a very real way, the rise of the review site has taken travelers away from the destination to do their planning. This seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?
That travelers would actually be working farther from their destination in some abstract online space to plan.
It’s time for hotels and destination marketing organizations to bring them back to the source. In order to effect this kind of change, DMOs and hotels must improve the planning process for travelers, helping them get the information they want efficiently and confidently—and without having to reading reviews into the night.
TrustYou aggregates millions of online reviews, social mentions and other user generated content and boils this data into usable, actionable insights that allow hotels, restaurants, destinations and intermediaries to improve their services and positively influence travelers’ decisions.