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Travelers have always relied heavily on recommendations for trip inspiration and planning, and online review sites have made peer commentary much more visible and accessible. Online reviews provide a lens into unfiltered consumer sentiment and behavior that was previously unavailable. This information is becoming simultaneously more sophisticated and unwieldy, presenting concurrent opportunities and challenges for marketers.
Marketers must also recognize that travelers behave differently when interacting through review sites or in their personal social networks. In review forums, consumers are in direct communication with or about travel brands while thinking about past or planned trips. Reviews are personal interactions much like social mentions, but consumers typically view travel information on social networks on the periphery of their everyday lives, not as a deliberate stop on the path to purchase.
Traveler reviews are also democratizing travel marketing. They have a direct influence on hotel operations, for example, and the collaborative nature of online review communities is contributing to the evolution of travel brands. Marketers have the opportunity to harness this collaboration if they are humble enough to recognize they may not always be driving their brand's message.
Online reviews have become an integral part of travelers’ digital path to purchase, and the influence of peer-to-peer travel information is increasing. More and more travelers are going online to share their opinions, providing a deep data mine for marketers looking to learn more about these consumers’ preferences.
Travel reviews posted online have exploded in recent years, and they’ve garnered significant attention because there are so many of them. The number of reviews on TripAdvisor, for example, surpassed 100 million in March 2013, bolstered by a 50% increase year over year. While TripAdvisor far and away boasts the most traveler-submitted reviews, other major online travel sites have also compiled tens of millions more.
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