Posted by Ric Garrido

Online Hotel Reviews

Travelers place a lot of faith in consumer-generated hotel reviews. I trust FlyerTalk.com content because there is a large community of travelers who provide opinions and feedback on each other’s comments. Most major upscale hotels around the world have user comments and reviews from the 100,000+ members of the FlyerTalk.com community.
I believe the self-monitoring independent community of FlyerTalk.com provides more accurate hotel reviews than what is typically found on TripAdvisor.com, particularly when it comes to the experience for elite frequent guests in the major hotel loyalty programs.

Social Media Co-Opted by Corporate Media

The best social media websites with consumer generated comments and hotel reviews have been co-opted by corporate media. Social media websites where users generate the content for free has been a successful marketing partnership for major travel industry players. What in many cases started out as independent, organically developed networks of people creating content for free to help other travelers has developed into the current condition of the major global travel reservations corporations like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com owning social network sites like TripAdvisor.com and IgoUgo.com as corporate subsidiaries.

Meta-search engines like Kayak.com who own TravelPost.com, and bulletin boards like FlyerTalk.com and Cruisecritic.com are not sellers of travel, but make money on an advertising model based on travelers frequently interacting as a community creating new content.

Major Online Hotel Reviews and Their Parent Corporations

IgoUgo.com hotel reviews and hotel rate meta-search engine = Travelocity.com (Parent Company)

TripAdvisor.com for hotel reviews and hotel rate meta-search = Expedia.com (Parent company)

Hotels.com has a large database for hotel reviews. Hotels.com is also an Expedia company. Hotel guests must have booked stay with Hotels.com to post a review and most of the reviews do not have any written comments. A point scale survey on Hotel Service, Hotel Condition, Room Comfort, and Room Cleanliness are used to give the hotel a rating on a 5 point scale. This website offers a quick snapshot of customer satisfaction for hotel.

TravelPost.com for hotel reviews and Kayak is a meta-search = Kayak.com (Parent Company)

Orbitz.com generates its own database of user-generated hotel reviews based on hotel guests booking through Orbitz.com and responding via e-mail to a post-stay request for a hotel review.

Yahoo! Travel uses a couple of different hotel review databases. When conducting hotel searches through the Yahoo Travel homepage the results use Travelocity and the hotel reviews are the same as Travelocity. When using Yahoo Travel Guides or FareChase for hotel searches the hotel reviews are a different set.

“I Want to Believe” TripAdvisor

A recent article TripAdvisor Staying Ahead of the Pack from Compete.com, the web traffic analysis site, and a blog post by the same writer Ryan Carrigg “TripAdvisor Poised for Success”, shows the dominance of TripAdvisor.com for user-generated content in the online travel research sector. The article states “TripAdvisor.com averaged over 6 million US unique visitors” per month for the year from May 2007 to May 2008. The traffic on TripAdvisor.com has seen 34% growth from May 2007. A finding in this report states that 1.08% of users of TripAdvisor.com had posted content over the past year.  TripAdvisor has hotel reviews, restaurant comments, and general travel forums for destinations.

This TripAdvisor data had me wondering about the hotel review content on other popular websites. I have made a simple analysis of online hotel reviews from several common websites by counting the actual number of hotel reviews for a small sample of hotels in San Francisco.

TripAdvisor Hotel Reviews – What Percentage of Guests Write TripAdvisor Reviews?

(There are a number of unknown variables which makes this analysis a very rough estimate at best.) 

Le Meridien San Francisco TripAdvisor popularity index #14/238 hotels;

197 total hotel reviews; 38 reviews from 2008; 79 reviews in past 12 months;
oldest review from April 26, 2002 when hotel was a Park Hyatt.

360 rooms at Le Meridien San Francisco
Assume a rather low 50% average nightly occupancy or 180 rooms booked per night.
180 rooms x 365 nights = 65,700 room-nights.

65,700 room-nights / 79 hotel reviews = 832 room-nights per hotel review.
1 hotel review for every 832 room-nights could be as few as 1 hotel review per 832 hotel guests (if each guest only stayed 1 night) at Le Meridien Hotel San Francisco.  Assume, on average each guest stays 2 nights and the ratio would increase to 1 hotel review per 416 guests. 

If hotel occupancy averaged 65% for the year, then the proportion of guests writing a review decreases. If more than one guest is in the room, then the proportion of hotel guests writing a review decreases.  There are lots of variables.

It seems to me that the actual range of guest hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.com is probably about 1 out of every 1,000 to 2,000 guests posts a hotel review for most major hotels.

360 rooms x .65 occupancy = 234 rooms/night are occupied.
234 rooms/night x 365 nights = 85,410 room-nights (some rooms will have more than one guest and some guests will stay more than one night)
85,410 room-nights/ 79 hotel reviews = 1,081 guest occupied rooms for every hotel review posted on TripAdvisor.com

1 hotel review is posted for every 1,081 guests at Le Meridien Hotel San Francisco if the hotel averaged 65% occupancy over past year.

Hyatt Regency San Francisco is a larger hotel with 805 rooms. Assume 50% occupancy for past year.

TripAdvisor has 37 reviews in 2008 and 66 reviews from past year.

Several floors of this hotel were remodeled in past six months and a newly remodeled Regency Club lounge opened in March.

805 rooms x .50 occupancy = 403 rooms/night occupied.
403 rooms/night x 365 nights = 147,095 room nights (guests) in past year.
147,095 / 66 hotel reviews = 2,229 guests at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco for every 1 review posted on TripAdvisor.com.

Hotel reviews are one strategy for choosing a hotel. I typically look at TripAdvisor to get opinions when I have a couple of hotels to choose from in the same price range. Unfortunately, my elementary analysis of the data indicates that even with the high number of hotel reviews on
TripAdvisor.com there is still only about 1 guest review for every 1,000 guests in the good cases and may be as few as 1 review for every 2,000 guests for other hotels.

When I read a review I wonder what the other 1,999 guests thought of their hotel stay experience for that same property? This is why a site like FlyerTalk.com with the ability to respond to other people’s hotel comments or ask questions provides more consumer-user-friendly content than many of the reviews on the major sites like TripAdvisor.com. Hotel corporate representatives even respond at times on FlyerTalk.com threads about hotels.

Online Hotel Reviews By the Numbers

The data below shows TripAdvisor rules the online hotel review sites for the depth of consumer-generated hotel reviews.

Methodology:
Hotel Reviews for 8 hotels in San Francisco were searched on 6 leading websites including Expedia.com, Kayak.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Hotels.com, and Yahoo!Travel .com

1. The total number of hotel reviews for a hotel is given on each of the hotel review sites.

2. I counted the number of reviews posted in 2008 since recent reviews are generally most valid for a reader. For example, Travelpost.com listed the Crowne Plaza Union Square San Francisco as one of their top 5 hotels. The Crowne Plaza changed to Hotel 480 six months ago and is no longer part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) hotel brands.

3. The number of reviews posted since July 1, 2007 was counted. This also shows the number of reviews older than one year. A popular site for submitting hotel reviews several years ago may have a high number of total hotel reviews, but a low number of recent reviews for hotel stays in the past year. This observation can be seen with Yahoo Travel Guides.

Consumer Written Hotel Reviews on Popular Websites
for a Selection of San Francisco Hotels

Le Meridien San Francisco, 360 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 38
Past year = 79
Total = 197

IgoUgo(Travelocity)
2008 = 2
Past year = 5
Total = 9

TravelPost(Kayak.com)
2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 18

Orbitz.com
2008 = 6
Past year = 8
Total = 11

Yahoo Travel Guides
2008 = 1
Past year = 4
Total = 12

Hotels.com
2008=122
Past Year = 191
Total = 223

Palace Hotel – The Luxury Collection (Starwood Hotels), 552 rooms
TripAdvisor (Expedia)
 
 

 

2008 = 47
Past year = 83
Total = 211

Hotels .com (Expedia)

2008 = 85; 127 reviews in past year; 161 total reviews;

94% recommend; 4.5 average rating

IgoUgo(Travelocity)

2008 = 4
Past year = 9
Total = 17

TravelPost(Kayak.com)

2008 = 0
Past year = 0
Total = 13

Orbitz.com

2008 = 4
Past year = 4
Total = 4

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 3
Total = 33

 

Westin St. Francis; 1,195 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 67
Past year = 128
Total = 463

IgoUgo(Travelocity)

2008 = 13
Past year = 23
Total = 43

TravelPost(Kayak.com)

2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 95

Orbitz.com

2008 = 18
Past year = 31
Total = 61

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 4
Total = 163

Hotels.com = 14 reviews in 2008; 28 reviews in past 12 months; 68 total reviews
Hilton San Francisco; 1,896 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 48
Past year = 110
Total = 232

Hotels.com (Expedia)

85 reviews in 2008; 200 reviews in past 12 months; 373 total reviews; 86% recommend; 4.2 average rating

IgoUgo(Travelocity)

2008 = 11
Past year = 41
Total = 75

TravelPost(Kayak.com)

2008 = 1
Past year = 1
Total = 82

Orbitz.com

2008 = 7
Past year = 18
Total = 39

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 4
Total = 93

 

 

Hyatt Regency San Francisco; 805 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 37
Past year = 66
Total = 203

Hotels.com (Expedia)

39 reviews in 2008; 63 reviews in past 12 months; 91 total reviews;

93% recommend hotel; 4.3 average rating out of 5

IgoUgo(Travelocity)

2008 = 2
Past year = 6
Total = 11

TravelPost(Kayak.com)

2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 93

Orbitz.com

2008 = 0
Past year = 8
Total = 20

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 4
Past year = 7
Total = 63

 

Grand Hyatt San Francisco, 685 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 44
Past year = 82
Total = 238

Hotels.com (Expedia)

26 reviews 2008; 54 reviews in past 12 months; 120 total reviews; 84% recommend, 4.2 average rating

IgoUgo(Travelocity)

2008 = 3
Past year = 18
Total = 45

TravelPost(Kayak.com)

2008 = 2
Past year = 2
Total = 17

Orbitz.com

2008 = 4
Past year = 21
Total = 44

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 2
Past year = 3
Total = 15
J.W. Marriott San Francisco, 337 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 19
Past year = 44
Total = 214
IgoUgo(Travelocity)
2008 = 3
Past year = 10
Total = 16

TravelPost(Kayak.com)

2008 = 1
Past year = 2
Total = 24

Orbitz.com

2008 = 2
Past year = 2
Total = 2

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 0
Past year = 1
Total = 44

Hotels.com

5 reviews in 2008; 12 reviews in past year; 78 total reviews; 88% recommend; 4.2 average rating

Marriott San Francisco; 1,498 rooms

TripAdvisor (Expedia)
2008 = 34
Past year = 75
Total = 206

IgoUgo(Travelocity)

2008 = 2
Past year = 13
Total = 30

TravelPost(Kayak.com)

2008 = 0
Past year = 0
Total = 10

Orbitz.com

2008 = 5
Past year = 6
Total = 17

Yahoo Travel Guides

2008 = 0
Past year = 2
Total = 36

Hotels.com (Expedia)

50 reviews in 2008; 97 reviews in past year; 138 total reviews; 90% recommend; 4.4 average rating
 

The advantage of Hotels.com is the large number of recent reviews and the display provides a quick snapshot of guest satisfaction.

Expedia is definitely the leader in the hotel review market as owner of the two largest databases in Tripadvisor.com and Hotels.com.

[Loyalty Traveler note: The text of this post was edited September 19, 2008 when I reviewed the piece for a new article about TripAdvisor.com and I realized I had incorrectly interpreted the data from Ryan Carrigg’s post with respect to the number of hotel reviews posted to TripAdvisor.  I originally wrote that I estimated TripAdvisor had about 90,000 new hotel reviews in May 2008.  The 90,000 figure actually reflects any user-generated content posted to TripAdvisor.com for May 2008 and only a fraction of this content are hotel comments.  There were also errors in the assumptions used to estimate the proportion of hotel guests who post TripAdvisor reviews. 

The main idea to take away from this post is the dominance of TripAdvisor.com, hotels.com, and their parent company, Expedia.com, in the online hotel reviews market segment.] 

 

2 Responses

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