Survey: 75% of Travelers Trust Other Consumers' Web Reviews


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Whether it’s simply undercooked steak at a four-star restaurant or a three-hour wait on an airport runway, travelers are habitually put upon when hitting the open road and historically have had few effective recourses in letting the offending companies know about it.

That seems to be changing rapidly.

A study out from New York City-based says 75% of Americans who say they are “likely” to travel in the coming year believe travel website comments written by fellow travelers are “trustworthy.” researchers say the data translate into a wake-up call for hotels, restaurants, rental car firms and airline companies. Nowadays, online user travel reviews can make or break travel-related companies with more travel consumers basing financial decisions on what other travelers say about their experiences.

Reputation Changer, a West Chester, Pa.-based corporate reputation management firm, agrees the Web is a powerful tool for consumers to use to pound away at lousy customer service — and a game changer for the traveling public.

"More and more, consumers are coming to use the Internet to do their homework and to conduct all the research necessary for making prudent, informed purchasing decisions," says Reputation Changer’s chief executive, Cliff Stein. "This is especially true when it comes to travel. When individuals are making their travel plans, they do not want to leave anything to chance. As such, they make it a priority to consult with other travelers, and to assess the feedback provided on sites such as Travelocity and TripAdvisor, even"

"Because consumers use these online reviews to inform their travel plans, businesses live or die by what these online review sites say," he says.

Online technology is so powerful, Stein says, that even a single negative review can be trouble for a travel industry company.

“Complaints posted to travel review sites are seen as potentially lethal to any business," he explains. "A single bad review can have a toxic effect on your hotel, your local business or your restaurant. It can lead to sharp declines in the number of customers who walk through your doors. It can lead to lost sales, diminished revenues and more. In fact, we have seen hotels and restaurants brought to utter ruin by these online review sites."

It’s good to see consumers gain some leverage with the powerful travel industry and companies respond. “The first step is monitoring," Stein says. "Businesses need to know what is being said about them at these review sites, and to be able to respond as quickly and as decisively as possible. As such, business owners or managers should take the time to set up profiles on TripAdvisor, on Yelp or on whatever other review sites are applicable."

Restaurants and hotels can even encourage loyal customers to pen some positive reviews, “balancing out” negative revises from frustrated customers. "Bad reviews can be suppressed and outshone by good ones,” he says.

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