Online reviews still important, but craze slowing down

Folks in the travel industry – accommodation and restaurants in particular – know how important online reviews have become ever since sites such as TripAdvisor came into the spotlight almost two decades ago.

As they have done in the past couple of years, Revinate just published their 2019 Global Hotel Reputation Benchmark Report, filled with insights to help travel marketers compare and optimise their own online reputation management approach.

In 2018, I took at look at previous editions of this annual report and predicted that Google would become the number one site when it comes to hotel reviews, and also said Facebook would rise into the top three, overtaking TripAdvisor along the way. Spoiler alert: the success rate for my predictions was 50-50. Let’s see how things have evolved in the past year.

Read: Google, Facebook and Travel Reviews

Review craze is slowing downTotal Review Growth 2017 vs 2018

Reviews have been on a continuous growth path for the last couple of years, seeing a year-over-year growth of 20 percent in 2015, 22 percent in 2016 and 27 percent in 2017. But for the first time in 2018, this growth was a single-digit, standing at 8 percent.

A growth nevertheless, but a clear indication that we have perhaps reached a maturity point… or that review sites are gathering feedback differently. This is certainly the case with Facebook, which is no longer about “reviews” but now rather about “recommendations”. More on this further in this article.

Google is now the #1 hotel review site

So how have things evolved in the past year when it comes to review sites and where guests flock to in order to write their comments online?

Review Distribution by Site

Review Distribution by Site. Source: Revinate

As expected, Google indeed did overtake Booking in the number one position, as both sites are now dominating the field, with TripAdvisor coming in as distant third. While 74 percent of reviews were posted on four sites in 2017, a greater percentage is now concentrated in only the top three – Google, Booking and TripAdvisor.

Review Distribution Growth (YoY)

Review Distribution Growth (YoY). Source: Revinate

The demise of Facebook reviews is mostly to blame for this skewed concentration, as the popular social network saw a 51% decrease in reviews written between 2017 and 2018, mostly due to its platform change whereas users can no longer give a score between 1 and 5 stars, but rather recommend (or not).

The folks at TripAdvisor must also be wondering how to turn the tide around. Ever since 2015, they have been losing market share when it comes to online hotel reviews, and again saw a 21 percent decrease in 2018. Just like Facebook moved to a recommendation format, will TripAdvisor follow suit to align with its new social-media-like approach, announced in the autumn of 2018? Read more on this: Travel Marketing Trends: What To Expect for 2019

Response rate improving

The silver lining in this report, as far as I am concerned, comes from the response rates we are now seeing from accommodation managers. A few years back, a Cornell University study found that 40 percent was the ideal response rate when it comes to dealing with comments received on various platforms. Should you respond to every comment or review? No, but we will want to prioritise according to online reputation management best practices.

Average Response Rate by Review Rating

Average Response Rate by Review Rating. Source: Revinate

The most recent report from revinate shows that hoteliers have increased their response rate across the board, except for five-star reviews, which require less attention to begin with – I am not saying they are less important, though. Thus, hoteliers have increased their response rate to one-star reviews (by four percent), whereas the previous report had shown a decrease in this specific category.

The report goes on to show slight variations between accommodation categories, ranging from budget to luxury, as well as regional differences across the globe. Lots of valuable information, not just for hotel marketers but for any travel marketing practitioner interested about this topic.


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