What is the true value in traveler reviews? It’s not just that there’s a public forum for travelers to discuss their likes and dislikes. There’s more to it than that. The real value is that there are travelers out there who want to travel in the same style, who value the same things, and who want to make decisions based on that style and those values. One person’s five star is another persons three, because two travelers in the same hotel may care about vastly different things.
Take my recent overnighter as an example. I recently celebrated a friend’s birthday at a destination resort. My friend thought it was perfect—there were activities galore, the rooms were elegant, and the service was exceptional. I wasn’t as satisfied because this truly lovely resort really focused on family activities, and for the price point, I’d rather have spent my time away somewhere that didn’t feature crying babies at midnight and root beer floats for dessert. In short, the resort wasn’t really catering to the restful retreat I was after. Now we can both walk away and write reviews about our stay, but we clearly care about different things. A traveler has had to read all of the above and more to try to make sense of whose review they identify with—are they going to trust her five-star review or my less-satisfied review.
Herein lies the problem with the current state of online travel reviews. For too long, travelers have been spending valuable time on the mind-numbing task of reading through long lists of reviews for each hotel they consider on a trip. And with every single review, a traveler has to decide if that reviewer holds similar values. Travelers do this by reading for keywords, reading between the lines, and ignoring extreme reviews that have the potential to be either fraudulent or written by someone who couldn’t be satisfied. It’s a lot of work on the part of the traveler, but I think most don’t complain because it’s so nice to have reviews at all.
There is an answer, however, and it’s in Meta-ReviewsTM. These verified review summaries rely on reviews from travelers who have stayed and paid and then drill down thousands and thousands of reviews into keyword heavy summaries along with scores. Meta-Reviews naturally weed out the extremes—it’s like a verbal average—and they get down to the nuts and bolts of what travelers need to know about a property. High on service, low on amenities, high on location, low on parking, high on luxury, low on price, and so forth. It takes the work out of reviews for the traveler. And to my point about travelers identifying with other reviewers, this is no longer a concern. When it’s an average, the important pieces stand out, and travelers don’t have to decide whether or not they trust the other reviewers. In one word, it’s valuable.
Those in the travel/hospitality industry who embrace Meta-Reviews – and many already have, including sites like KAYAK, Wego, Room77, Makemytrip.com – will find that they are giving travelers a more efficient online experience, which generally means travelers will spend more time on your website. And conversions will undoubtedly go up. Travelers gravitate toward sites that offer a better user experience, and Meta-Reviews provide exactly that. Except, I like to think of it as creating better travel experiences.