Will traditional travel reviews die out?

by March 11, 2014 9:57 am In The News

Note: This article was originally published in Tnooz.The original content can be found here.

A recent TripAdvisor-PhoCusWright study shows that consumers read at least six to twelve travel reviews prior to booking.

That study was based on trends over the past year. However, the Internet is a fast paced and ever changing world, and there are signs that in the near future, travelers might consume reviews in a different way.

TrustYou, for example, has developed what it calls “the Meta-Review”, a summary of a hotel’s reputation derived from semantic analysis of reviews across the world.

The claimed reach of more than 50 million monthly unique visitors being influenced by TrustYou data on sites like Kayak or Wego.com is impressive.

We interviewed TrustYou CEO and co-founder Benjamin Jost to find out more:


What exactly are Meta-Reviews?

Meta-Reviews are a trusted summary of relevant reviews worldwide, showing the most talked about and most relevant attributes of a particular hotel, along with some special, important-to-know ‘nuggets’ of information that are unique to the particular hotel.

Different signals are taking into account; for example, the most recent content carries a higher weight. We also start to experiment with different weighting for verified reviews versus unverified ones.

Bottom line, think of Meta-Reviews as the Cliff’s Notes for thousands and thousands of reviews; they give travelers the best possible summary of all reviews for faster, more informed booking decisions.

And when I mean best possible I also talk about trust. We know that every reputation system is built on trust and Meta-Reviews are 100% objective. Our analysis is based purely on algorithms and math, without any agenda.

Plus, with the sheer volume of content that is analyzed, Meta-Reviews are working with the law of big numbers, meaning that any outlier or small volume of extremely negative reviews is washed out.




So we don’t need to read reviews any more?

We think these summaries will become invaluable, both on websites as well as on mobile, where time and space is extremely limited. Who really wants to read through thousands of reviews or has time to do so?

We believe the great majority of travelers want to digest the pros and cons about a hotel or restaurant. These insights are hidden in reviews. So why not taking the work out of finding these insights and present it in the form of consumable summaries?

That’s the idea behind the Meta-Review.




Do you think this is a broad industry trend and why do we see this trend starting now and not five years ago?

Yes, we believe this is where the industry is heading. Until ten years ago, it was all about traditional advertisements and direct marketing. Then, TripAdvisor came along and changed everything, introducing user-generated content to the travel industry.

Travelers could turn to the wisdom of the crowd to get an inside look at what the hotel was really like. In the last five years, reviews became a commodity.

Now, we have entered a new phase. There is an abundance of content; hundreds of millions of reviews and opinions. In fact, there is so much content that most travelers have trouble making sense of it all. Many properties have thousands of reviews.

There is no way to read all of that and then try to compare with other properties in the area. It feels more and more like an inferior way for travelers to have to consume all the rich data by reading long lists of text.

I am convinced the next big industry trend will be about making sense of all that data. Context will be king.

We bet our company on that trend and invest in technology to analyze exactly this kind of information, and then present the outcome in an easy to digest format so that both travelers and hoteliers can understand the pros and cons within seconds.


So do you think traditional reviews will die out?

No, they won’t die out. The more content, the better. We will continue to see every player throughout the value chain (OTAs, meta-search sites, social platforms, destination sites, hotels) collect direct feedback in various forms.

But the most relevant data will be presented in summaries, in filters, in search, so that travelers will get right content in the right time with the least amount of work.

If you look at big data companies or at Google for that matter, the Holy Grail for every company is to first come up with as much meaningful structured data as possible.

The Meta-Review is exactly that – structured review content.


You mention filtering and search, how do you apply this to search?

Imagine you know everything ever written about all hotels in Bangkok. Now I want to know where should I stay in Bangkok with my family, and apart from price, my wife really likes clean and quiet rooms.

Because TrustYou’s algorithms have structured all of this information, I can search for hotels with the highest sentiment scores that match these criteria. These filters and searches will change the travel landscape because travelers can find the most relevant result in the least amount of time.


Is this the reasons why intermediaries and travel sites use TrustYou’s data?

Everyone we show our API to sees the potential to build much better filter and search experiences. But even without considering the search case, there is a huge need to integrate review content for more than 400,000 hotels in 26 languages – without having this type of content, booking numbers are drastically lower.

The numbers speak to a clear trend that users crave this sort of content to feel confident in their booking decisions.


Can you share some of these statistics?

When incorporating TrustYou data onto their sites, our partners see conversion rates increase from 0.8% to up to 40%. Time spent on the sites has doubled in some cases, and repeat usage numbers are growing as well.

Another interesting data point we’ve found is that when sites show both a Meta-Review summary and traditional text reviews, about 75% of travelers only read the summary and don’t click through the actual text of all reviews.

That’s why I am so confident that this is a game changer and will change the way travelers will consume user reviews in the future.

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.


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