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Online Reviews Affecting Travelers’ Hotel Choice Report


Abstract

The researcher was interested in investigating the influence of online reviews on travelers’ choice of a hotel. Data was collected from primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources of data included books, journal articles, and reliable online databases. Primary data was collected from a sample of travelers and hoteliers who are directly affected by the reviews. The findings revealed that online reviews have a major impact on travelers’ choice of a hotel. It was established that their purchasing decisions are largely influenced by what they find out from these reviews.

Introduction

Tourism is one of the industries that have been impacted by the emerging technologies, especially in the field of communication. In the past, tourists relied on the travel agents to do their reservations at hotels of their choices. However, Loooker, Rockland and Taylor-Ketchun (2007) say that tourists were left at the mercies of the travel agents. The agents had the power to choose the hotels to book, giving little attention to personal needs of the customers.

According to Edosomwan, Prakasan, Kouame, Watson and Seymour (2011), tourists visiting places around the world had to rely on word of mouth in order to determine what to expect. They would rely on the information from their friends and family members who had experienced the services offered in these places in the past. However, this was not a very good way of getting to know the most appropriate hotel a traveler would consider appropriate. The emergence of advanced communication technology has completely transformed this sector. Communication has been made easier due to the emergence of internet related communication systems. Travelers can now communicate with the hotels they want to book directly through their websites.

The online forums have created a large community where people can share their experiences about the services they got from various hotels. These online forums help in informing the decision of the travelers before they can make their purchases. As Hardin and Kim (2010) put it, communication through the word of mouth is still as important as it was several decades ago. People tend to trust reviews from other people.

They are keen to know about the experience they underwent, what pleased them, what frustrated them, and many other issues that may directly be related to the experiences they expect to get. That is why many hotels have gone online in order to participate in the reviews and discussion. The major problem is that some hotels are using these forums to paint a negative image of their rivals in an unfair manner. This affects the operations of other firms, especially if the customers believe in such deceitful negative reviews. In this study, the researcher seeks to determine the impact of online reviews on hotels and restaurants.

Research questions

According to Brewer and Hunter (2006), before going to the field to collect data, it is important for a researcher to set clear questions that will guide in the process of gathering data. Research questions act as compass direction that guides the researcher in identifying specific information that will be relevant in a given study. Sometimes a researcher may come across very interesting but irrelevant information in the field. If such a researcher lacks a clear guideline on the specific data that should be collected, it is easy to gather large amounts of information that do not directly address the topic area of the study. The following are the specific research questions that will be used in this study.

  • What is the impact of online reviews on travelers’ choice of hotel?
  • What is the role played by the stakeholders in hospitality industry in influencing these reviews?
  • How can one determine whether the reviews are genuine or not?
  • What measures can be put in place to eliminate deceitful reviews in favor of some firms?

The above questions will guide the researcher when collecting both primary and secondary sources of information.

Hypothesis

The researcher developed research hypothesis based on personal knowledge that reflects the questions posted above. The hypotheses are propositions that will either be confirmed or rejected based on the outcome of the research. The following are the hypotheses used in this study.

  • H1: Online reviews have a major impact on travelers’ choice of hotel
  • H2: Stakeholders in the hospitality industry are keen on influencing online reviews in favor of their firms.
  • H3: To get to know the truth about information from the online reviews, one may need to investigate the issue by visiting other websites.
  • H4: The website administrators should be put to task when they publish any review in order to eliminate cases of fraud.

The results from the analysis of the data will help the researcher to either confirm or reject the above hypotheses.

Significances of the study

According to Greene (2007), conducting a research is a very complex and expensive process that requires a lot of time and finance. In order to gather relevant literatures and review them, it takes a lot of time. After reviewing these literatures, a researcher will need to go to the field and collect primary data in order to help verify the information gathered from secondary sources. All these processes cost a lot of time and money. It is, therefore, necessary to justify why a given study is relevant.

The tourism industry, specifically the hospitality sub-sector, heavily relies on people coming from other parts of the world to visit the country. They have little knowledge about the local hotels and restaurants, but are very interested in knowing something about them so as to have a brief idea of what to expect. In most of the cases, these are individuals looking for comfort and pleasure. These customers rely on the reviews they get in the online community in order to inform their purchasing decision. The problem of the online platforms is that people are sometimes mean with truth. They are keen on pressing personal interests, and this has led to misinformation when people give reviews. This affects both the players and the customers negatively.

When a review exaggerates what a given hotel offers, a customer may be dissatisfied with the services, and may consider going elsewhere next time they want to tour the world. They develop a general impression about the services offered by the hotels in the region based on their unpleasant experience. On the other hand, hotels and restaurants that offer better services get to suffer because of these deceitful reviews.

This research will help the stakeholders in this industry determine the impact of online reviews on the choice of hotels visitors choose to visit. It also proposes ways in which the stakeholders can ensure that information provided in the online community is neither deceitful not malicious. This will help in protecting the firms and their customers in an industry that has come to rely heavily on the modern means of communication.

Literature Review

Tourism industry in Australia and in other parts of the world has faced various contemporary issues that have completely transformed its dynamics. This has in turn, affected the hospitality industry that largely depends on tourism. According to Mansfield and Pizam (1999), the emerging technologies have had both positive and negative impacts on the hospitality industry. Many hotels and restaurants have risen to the positions of prominence because of their ability to master and act upon the emerging technologies to their advantage.

On the other hand, some hotels have seen their downfall caused by their inability to manage the emerging technologies, thereby complicating their operational processes. In this study, the researcher focused on both the positive and negative impacts of online reviews on hotels and restaurants.

According to McKay (2010), many unscrupulous businessmen are using the emerging technologies in order to gain unfair competitive edge over their market rivals. They are paying individuals to visit certain rival hotels and give negative reviews about the services they were given. In mild cases, these paid online reviewers will be genuine by gathering only the true negativities about the firms they are investigating.

They would ignore all the pleasant experiences and only focus on the lapses they experienced when they visited such facilities. That is an unfair business practice meant to harm the target firm. In extreme cases, Starkov and Mechoso (2008) say that a reviewer would make wild claims about the services they received from a given firm. Such wild claims are meant to discredit their target firms in order to convince customers to avoid such facilities. This is a harmful and unsustainable business practice that may harm the entire industry, including the players who engage in the practice. To the business fraternity, honest business entities that have made genuine effort to offer their customers the best services possible will not get customers anymore because of such negative statements.

According to Noone, Meguire and Rohlfs (2011), a customer will easily be influenced by such reviews and they will make a point to avoid visiting such hotels. They will, in turn, visit the hotels and restaurants with positive reviews. However, at the back of their mind they will have very high expectations of the services to expect following the reviews they went through. In reality, the hotels recommended may lack the capacity to offer the value given in the reviews. When the visitors fail to get the value they expected, they will not just develop a negative impression of that specific hotel or restaurant.

Munzel (2013) says that they will use the hotel as a benchmark of the kind of services offered in all the hotels in the region. In their mind, they will be wondering the kind of services offered in other hotels if the one advertised to be the best offers substandard products. Under such circumstances, it is easy for such customers to avoid visiting the region. It means that the betrayal will not only make them loose trust with that particular hotel, but also other hotels in the entire region or even country.

This demonstrates how dangerous deceitful are to the industry at large. It is a plague capable of destroying businesses and economy if left unchecked (Hardin and Kim, 2010). The stakeholders in this industry must take it upon themselves to ensure that this behavior is eliminated in order to protect the industry. Customers have a right to get correct information whenever they are looking for reviews. As Minazzi (2014) says, using such forums to fight rival firms in a malicious manner is not sustainable. It is a short-lived strategy that when discovered, becomes more destructive than it ever was useful. These unscrupulous individuals must realize that when they do this, they are not just fighting other market rivals, but the industry at large.

According to Pease, Rowe and Cooper (2007), online reviews also has a number benefits that should not be ignored in this analysis. Competition has become stiff in the hospitality industry due to the increasing number of the new players getting into the industry. These new players come with new designs and superior products to offer the market, putting a lot of pressure on the existing ones.

However, Starkov and Mechoso (2008) say that this competition is very healthy for the growth of the industry. As firms struggle to attract more customers to their facilities, they try to improve their services using all possible strategies. This means that there will be an upward adjustment of the value of products offered. This will have an overall positive impact on the service delivered to the customers, leading to the growth of the industry.

Online reviews offer hotels and platforms opportunity to market themselves to the international community. In many cases, the reviews are done by customers who have had an experience with the firm and are willing to share it with the world. For this to be possible, then the service must either be just way below their expectations or way above it. It is rare for an individual who has barely been satisfied with a service to make reviews (Minazzi, 2014).

This is so because they got what they expected. Firms may not want to have reviewers dwelling on their poor services. For this reason, they will make concerted efforts to ensure that they get evangelists who will spread the good news about their products. This will demand that they find ways of designing their products to offer the highest value to the customers.

Hotels are now considering making reviews about their own services. With the stiff market competition, firms are not letting anything to chance. These hotels and restaurants are keen on getting actively involved in forums frequented by their customers. They have realized that buying behavior of their customers is largely influenced by the information they gather through online reviews. The only way of correcting any misinformation or misrepresentation is to be present in such forums.

Although many customers may not trust self-reviews, sometimes it may help, especially when a firm uses it to bring out the truth about a given issue. It helps a firm to clear the air when wrong allegations were made against it. Online presence also helps these firms to present to the market unique products they offer at their facilities. This may influence the purchasing decisions of the costumers. They may develop an interest of getting to experience what such a firm offers (Vellnagel, 2010).

Adverse effects of social media

The social media is another phenomenon that has hit the hospitality with a massive impact. Most of the reviews are made through the social media, although there are specific sites for such reviews in many countries, including Australia. However, people also get to interact in the social media and through this, they get to share their experiences. Although in such forums they do not get to give a full review such as the rankings of the hotels they visit, they can inform their peers about the benefits and shortcomings of specific hotels they visited.

Loooker, Rockland and Taylor-Ketchun (2007) say that in many cases, before one makes a purchasing decision, they tend to inquire from friends who have had the opportunity to visit such places. Their views play an important role in defining the decisions that an individual will make. Facebook and Tweeter are very important when it comes to sharing such experiences. In many hotels in this country, it is illegal to record videos, especially due to security reasons. However, this has not stopped many visitors videotaping themselves undergoing different experiences at these hotels. When they post such videos on YouTube, it can have a massive impact on the decisions made by an individual concerning buying their product. That will be considered a real image of what to expect.

Consumer behavior and online reviews

According to Vellnagel (2010), consumer behavior is influenced by the environmental factors. Human being is always keen on imitating admirable things he sees in the environment. He is always looking for pleasant experiences, keen on avoiding things that may bring pain and suffering. Vellnagel (2010) further states that human being is always keen to avoid adventure, especially when such adventures involve uncertainties that may possibly result into painful events.

Uncertainty may have numerous possibilities, some of which may not be very pleasant. Very few people may want to have such experiences. For tourists, such uncertainties are even more undesirable. After spending a whole year or sometimes more working from morning to evening, they take breaks in order to get pleasure. They are always keen on avoiding paths less taken. They want to follow paths taken by those who enjoyed their experience.

For this group, online reviews have a major impact on their behavior. Such reviews may make them decide on the products they purchase because of the desire to get the best value out of their money. These reviews are even more effective when they are made by people they know and trust. When such people advise against going to a given hotel, they will follow their guide. This makes these reviews very important in the hospitality industry.

Research Methodology

When conducting a research, it is important to come up with a clear research methodology that defines how primary and secondary data will be collected and analyzed. In this section, the researcher will define the approach that was used to gather and analyzed data in order to arrive at the findings given in the chapter that follows.

Sampling techniques

It was important to sample a section of the target population in order to get their views on the issue under investigation when collecting primary data. The sampling technique that was used in the study was stratified sampling techniques. This was chosen because the researcher had two distinct groups to gather data from in this study. The first group had the customers who are influenced by the online reviews when making decisions about the hotels that they should book. The second group ha the players in this hospitality industry keen on attracting customers to their facilities using online reviews. Each of the two strata was assigned the same value. In each stratum, simple random sampling was used to select the individual participants for the study.

Data collected

Data needed for this study had to respond directly to the research questions as stated in the introductory chapter. Data was collected from primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources of data included books, journals, and other reliable online sources. Primary data was collected from a group of respondents sampled as discussed in the section above.

Data collection

Primary data collection was done through a survey. The researcher organized for a face-to-face interview with the respondents. This was considered an appropriate way of collecting data because it would enable the researcher to gather further information from the respondents by observing facial expressions. Such non-verbal cues helps in gathering information that a respondent may want to hide.

Scope of data collection

Primary data used in this research were collected from participants in the hospitality industry. The participants interviewed had to be either customers or individuals working in the hospitality industry. This was so because the researcher wanted specific information from these two groups.

Type of data analysis

This research used mixed method in data analysis. Quantitative data analysis was needed in order to determine the number of people who were in support of the idea that online review had a major impact on the choice of hotels customers go for. On the other hand, the researcher needed descriptive statistics in order to explain specific issues the use of online reviews by stakeholders in the hospitality industry. This means that both open ended and closed ended questions were used in the survey.

Validity and reliability

The issue of validity and reliability was considered in this research. With the knowledge that the report can be used by the players in this industry or other scholars, it was necessary to maintain a high degree of reliability. The use of a wide range of literatures helped in enhancing reliability in the secondary sources of data collected. The researcher avoided bias when sampling the respondents. Personal opinions of the researcher did not influence the outcome of the study in any way.

Results

In this section, the researcher used data collected from the respondents to conduct an analysis that would help in confirming or rejecting the hypotheses set in the previous chapters. The following are the outcome of the data based on the hypotheses used in the study.

The first hypothesis focused specifically on the topic of the research. It was meant to determine whether online reviews have an impact on travelers’ choice of hotel.

  • H1: Online reviews have a major impact on travelers’ choice of hotel
Online reviews have a major impact on travelers’ choice of hotel

As shown in the data presented above, majority of the respondents felt that online reviews have a major impact of travelers’ choice of hotel. There was a near unanimous agreement among the respondents that the decisions of the travelers are largely influenced by what they learn from the reviews. Only 2% of the respondents felt that online reviews have no impact on travelers’ choice of hotel.

The second hypothesis was meant to determine if stakeholders in the hospitality industry are involved in online reviews in a way that can favor them.

  • H2: Stakeholders in the hospitality industry are keen on influencing online reviews in favor of their firms.
Stakeholders in the hospitality industry are keen on influencing online reviews in favor of their firms

The respondents felt that stakeholders in the hospitality industry are highly involved in the online reviews with the aim influencing the decisions of the travelers in their favor. Over 94% of the respondents shared this view.

In the third hypothesis, the researcher wanted to know how one can get to know the truth about the information they get through the reviews. The literatures suggested that they should conduct reviews. The researcher wanted to know if further online investigation would be of help in ascertaining if this can work.

  • H3: To get to know the truth about information from the online reviews, one may need to investigate the issue by visiting other websites.
To get to know the truth about information from the online reviews, one may need to investigate the issue by visiting other websites

As shown in the above graph, majority of the respondents felt that online searches are very reliable when seeking to get further information about online reviews. Most of these respondents stated that one can choose to visit the websites of the discredited companies and ask relevant questions that may address the issue of concern. One can also look for alternative reviews for further information.

The last hypotheses wanted to know if it is logical and morally acceptable for the government or other relevant authorities to put to task websites that allow malicious reviews to take place in the online platform.

H4: The website administrators should be put to task when they publish any review in order to eliminate cases of fraud.

The website administrators should be put to task when they publish any review in order to eliminate cases of fraud

The respondents felt that there should be mechanisms that will ensure that the administrators of given websites are put to task over what is presented in their websites. Both the customers and the players in this industry were not pleased by the fact that some individuals provide misleading ideas, forcing the travelers to make wrong choices when booking the hotels. Only 2% of the respondents had a contrary opinion.

Discussion

For a long time, the hoteliers have relied on agents to help them get customers from all over the world who come to the country as tourists. However, technology is redefining the marketing strategies that players in this industry should use when it comes to reaching out to the customers. According to the findings from the literature review and analysis of primary data, it is now clear that online reviews have massive impact on the choice of travelers’ hotel.

When a person plans to travel, the modern era of online community dictates that he should conduct a search of the place in order to gather basic information. Issues such as security, mode of transport available, language, and hospitality services are some of the basic facts that one would want to gather. The players in the hospitality industry have found online reviews to be relevant to them when looking for places to stay. According to the findings in the literature review, many people trust information they get from friends. Fear of unpleasant experiences, especially in foreign lands, forces these travelers to seek opinion of their friends and family members who have visited these places.

One of the most important questions in such forums is the best hotel that one can go for during the visit. In most of the cases, one would go for the option suggested by the friends. They believe that these friends had taken time to review the available options, and their suggestions are always the best. In cases where one cannot get the opinions of friends or family members, they would go to the online community in order to know what others say about the services they are about to purchase.

When the reviews favor a given hotel, then chances are high that they may consider going for their services. from the review of literatures and analysis of primary data, it is evident that online reviews are useful both to the hoteliers and their customers because it offers both parties information they need. The hoteliers get to know what customers expect from them while customers get to know what various hotels offer in order to make informed choices. However, when it is misused, online reviews may be dangerous to the hospitality industry.

Conclusion

The research has confirmed the claim that online reviews have a major impact on the choice travelers make when purchasing services in the hospitality industry. The research has established that both hoteliers and customers heavily depend on the reviews for different purposes. The significance of these reviews has seen unscrupulous businessmen give misleading reviews in order to win over travelers to book their hotels. However, such strategies may have serious consequences may have far reaching consequences. It is therefore, important for the players in this industry to be responsible when they get involved in the online reviews.

References

Brewer, J. & Hunter, A. (2006). Foundations of multi-method research: Synthesising styles. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Edosomwan, S., Prakasan, S., Kouame, D., Watson J., & Seymour, T. (2011). The history of social media and its impact on business. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, 16(3), 79-91.

Greene, J. (2007). Mixed methods in social inquiry. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hardin, A., & Kim, J. (2010). The impact of virtual worlds on word of mouth: Improving social networking and services in the hospitality industry. Journal of Hospitality marketing and management, 19(7), 735-753.

Loooker, A., Rockland D., & Taylor-Ketchun, E. (2007). Media myths and realities: A study of 2006 media usage in America. Tactics, 10(5), 21-22.

Mansfield, Y. & Pizam, A. (1999). Consumer behavior in travel and tourism. New York: Haworth Press.

McKay, L. (2010). The hospitality Suite. Customer relationship management, 14(9), 30-34.

Minazzi, R. (2014). Social media marketing in tourism and hospitality. New York: Springer.

Munzel, A. (2013). Interactions within online review sites: Motives, effects and management. München: FGM-Verl.

Noone, B., Meguire, K. & Rohlfs, K. V. (2011). Social media meets hotel revenue management: Opportunities, issues, and unanswered questions. Journal of Revenue and pricing Management, 10(4), 293-305.

Pease, W., Rowe, M., & Cooper, M. (2007). Information and communication technologies in support of the tourism industry. Hershey, PA: Idea Group Pub.

Starkov, M. & Mechoso, M. (2008). Best practices on Monitoring Hotel Review Sites. Hospitality businesses Strategies. New York: August.

Vellnagel, C. C. (2010). Intercultural communication within the tourism industry: Cultural differences, misunderstandings and how to reduce them. München: GRIN Verlag.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 12). Online Reviews Affecting Travelers’ Hotel Choice. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-reviews-affecting-travelers-hotel-choice/

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"Online Reviews Affecting Travelers’ Hotel Choice." IvyPanda, 12 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/online-reviews-affecting-travelers-hotel-choice/.

1. IvyPanda. "Online Reviews Affecting Travelers’ Hotel Choice." September 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-reviews-affecting-travelers-hotel-choice/.


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IvyPanda. "Online Reviews Affecting Travelers’ Hotel Choice." September 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-reviews-affecting-travelers-hotel-choice/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "Online Reviews Affecting Travelers’ Hotel Choice." September 12, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/online-reviews-affecting-travelers-hotel-choice/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Online Reviews Affecting Travelers’ Hotel Choice'. 12 September.

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