Special Report: Does a vocal minority hold sway over online reviews?

Special Report: Does a vocal minority hold sway over online reviews?

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A minority of consumers appear to have a disproportionate influence online. Ian Taylor reports on an exclusive study of attitudes to online travel reviews

More than half of consumers planning to purchase a holiday this year will check online reviews before booking and more than one in 10 won’t book a hotel, resort or travel brand if they see it negatively reviewed.

Yet two-thirds of UK holidaymakers seldom or never post a review, according to research for Travel Weekly, and only one in 10 do so regularly – suggesting a minority have a disproportionate influence online.

Research firm TNS questioned more than 2,000 UK adults face to face, identifying more than 900 who regularly take a holiday.

Of these, it found 15% would not book a holiday without first checking reviews on a site such as TripAdvisor, while 39% “generally look at some reviews” and 16% “sometimes” check online consumer reviews.

Only 28% paid “little” or “no attention” to reviews.

When TNS asked respondents how they react to a negative review “of a travel company, hotel or resort”, 12% said they would “drop plans to book and look for an alternative”.

However, when asked how often they post reviews of their own online, only 11% of respondents said “often” or “all the time”, and one in five (21%) “occasionally”.

One in 10 (11%) said they “seldom” post a review and 56% “never” do – meaning 67% of holidaymakers hardly contribute reviews despite the attention these attract and the influence they have.

Review trends by age

The findings suggest younger adults are more interested in reading online reviews, with 65% of 16 to 34-year-olds always or generally checking review sites before booking, against 56% of the 35-54 age group and 40% of over-55s.

More-frequent travellers also appear more interested, with 58% of those who travel abroad at least once a year in this category against 46% of other holidaymakers.

However, older adults appear more likely to post online reviews, with 13% of 35 to 54-year-olds doing so “all the time or often” compared with 10% of those aged 16-34 and 9% of over-55s.

Better-off holidaymakers also appear more likely to post reviews, with 14% of consumers in social groups AB doing so against 8% of holidaymakers in the less-affluent C1 group. Looked at the other way, 61% of AB holidaymakers seldom or never post, compared with 69% of other social groups.

Considered views

The industry can take heart from the fact that two-thirds (67%) of holiday buyers take a considered view of bad reviews, with 62% saying they “check a number of reviews before forming an opinion” and 5% ignoring a negative review.

Even so, it appears a minority of consumers do have a disproportionate say in what the remaining holiday purchasers do, in particular at the lower end of the market.

Those less well-off appear a little more likely to pull out of a booking because of a negative review (14%) than the more affluent ABs (11%), while 51% of less well-off consumers check a number of reviews before making a decision compared with 71% in higher‑income groups.

TNS group director Tom Costley noted: “It’s interesting that, with three in four people taking holidays checking online reviews, the posting of reviews is much less widespread – 21% do so occasionally, 11% seldom and 56% never.”

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