Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration released a report earlier this month on How Travelers Use Online and Social Media Channels to Make Hotel-choice Decisions. Their conclusions are based on past research, interviews with industry and academic experts and results of a survey of 2,800 business and leisure hotel customers in the United States.
It reinforces the powerful influence of recommendations from friends and word of mouth, stating “The most powerful promotional tool is word of mouth from a friend, and social media are an extension of this.” It suggests that hoteliers need to listen to what guests are saying and adapt their offerings and messages appropriately.
Hotel guests place more weight on consumer reviews than ratings from established organizations. PhoCusWright research quoted in the report backs this up. They found that Facebook is one of the top three most frequently consulted social media and customer review sites. Further, two-thirds of travelers who use the internet are also on Facebook. That figure jumps to 90 percent in the 18 to 24 age group. Most critically, conversion rates from Facebook referrals far exceed those from other online travel sites.
Our own hotel e-business study found that hotel reviews, comments and ratings, combined with rich visuals is the most effective mix of conversion tactics. “Combining robust imagery with customer reviews/comments has shown to be the ultimate, preferred experience.” From this, and the data from PhoCusWright, we can infer that conversions from Facebook referrals should be highest when video is also available.