Online Resources Key To Travel Decision-Making
In January 2013, TripAdvisor conducted its biggest traveler survey ever, with over 35,000 participants from around the globe answering questions about how travelers plan upcoming trips, use social media or mobile devices prior to, during or after their travels. The complete report can be found here on TripAdvisor TripBarometer. Here are some of the major findings from this survey, in this compelling infographic which I have broken down below:
The findings here echo those found by TEXT100′s research last November, which I covered in How Digital Influence Travel Decisions Around The World. North America and the rest of the world seem to share similar patterns in seeking information online, yet it’s clear travel agents remain a stronger reference in countries like Australia or European countries like Spain, Italy and, to a lesser extent, France, the UK and Germany. What comes out, loud and clear though: travel review sites, OTAs and travel operator sites have surpassed family and friends as main source of information, as word-of-mouth is transforming itself into world-of-mouth!
Another huge finding, confirming what many expected or what many won’t acknowledge: free in-room wifi is now considered THE most important amenity when booking a trip, according to U.S. travelers. I am still trying to getting over the shock attending a conference in Atlantic City a couple of weeks ago, where in-room wifi at Caesars Hotel was ridiculously expensive, and it only covered the room, on one given device. Once you went to the conference center, or if you used your phone rather than your laptop, you had to purchase another package, at like US$49 for a four-hour session!
It’s also interesting to see that across the globe, people consider an average of seven properties prior to making the final reservation, thus prompting the ever-important question: what will they think of your property? What’s being said about it on TripAdvisor, Booking, Google Reviews or Expedia? How does your hotel website compare to competitors? Are you mobile optimized or better yet, have a website adapted for smartphones and tablets?
No surprises here either. These findings echo those from the research conducted by PhoCusWright in November 2012, on behalf of TripAdvisor. Other findings from the 2012 Hotel Review survey include:
- 74% state that they write reviews because they want to share a good experience with other travelers
- 67% of users state that, when available, they look at traveler-submitted photos to help them make hotel choices
- 59% of users state that when reading reviews, they ignore extreme comments
- In fact, only 5% of users state that they focus more on negative reviews to check for hotels and avoid potential pitfalls
- 57% of users agree that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally makes them more likely to book it (versus a comparable hotel that didn’t respond to travelers)
While many people, me included, deemed 2012 the year that finally was the year of mobile, well, turns out we’re not quite there. Yet. Indeed it seems like customer adoption for mobile devices exceeds the speed at which brands and travel organizations are adapting to seize the opportunities within this booming channel. Thus, in 2013, there is still quite a bit of room to grow in and space to occupy for those who want to take a sizeable chunk of the market.
These stats are a great reminder that smartphones are much, much more than talking devices and that, in fact, there is more to mobile than just phones. We now carry tablets, laptops and other wireless devices that allow us to stay connected and share experiences with friends, parents and colleagues via our preferred social networks. As for social media, it may not play a conclusive role in the booking stage of the purchase funnel, but it certainly plays a key role during the experience, when we tend to share prominently, thus affecting our circle of friends, fans and followers.
Last but not least, it’s interesting to see how businesses are embracing social reviews to ensure everyone within companies can play a role to ensure great customer service and positive online reputation for the brand. It’s great to see how brands and travel industry stakeholders in the U.S. have taken the lead with regards to answering online comments, whether they are positive or negative.
Do any of these findings surprise you? I would be interested to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
For the past 18 years, Frederic has been in key marketing, sales & communications roles in the Canadian travel industry. He is now consultant and speaker, specializing in marketing, social media & mobile strategies. Visit his blog for more info at www.fredericgonzalo.com
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