Most consumers read online travel reviews, but not so many write them. Ian Taylor reports on exclusive research
Nine out of 10 holidaymakers look at online consumer reviews before booking their holidays and two out of three do so often or always.
But exclusive research for Travel Weekly suggests three out of four seldom contribute reviews, meaning a minority have a disproportionate influence.
The study suggests one in five holidaymakers responds to a bad review by looking elsewhere for a hotel or holiday.
Explore Research carried out the survey among 500 UK adults who had recently booked an overseas holiday.
It found 33% always study online consumer reviews before booking, 30% often do and 29% sometimes do. Just 8% said they never do.
These figures were largely reversed when respondents were asked whether they contributed online reviews of hotels, resorts or travel experiences.
More than one third (35%) said they never post reviews, with 41% doing so sometimes; 15% said often and 9% always.
The results are in line with a similar survey six months ago, also by Explore for Travel Weekly, suggesting they fairly accurately reflect the fact that a minority of consumers contribute most reviews.
Yet a significant number of people appear immediately put off booking a hotel or resort by a negative review.
Explore found 14% said they would seek another holiday option in the face of a bad review and 5% would search elsewhere for a holiday – meaning almost one in five react to a single bad review by looking elsewhere to book.
A majority (69%) said they look at other reviews before forming an opinion and 5% said they seek other sources of reviews, suggesting three out of four seek another opinion in the face of a bad review. Only 3% said they ignored such a review.
A small minority admit to posting mostly negative reviews (7%), with a clear majority (65%) who contribute online reviews – whether occasional or often – claiming their contributions are neither positive nor negative.
Almost one in three (30%) said their reviews are most often positive.
Women appear more likely than men to check other reviews before reaching a conclusion: 77% of women respondents said they would do so, compared with 70% of men.
Male respondents appear more affected by a poor review, 22% saying they would immediately seek another holiday option compared with 16% of female respondents.
Young people seem slightly more likely to form an opinion based on a review – 20% doing so on the basis of a single bad review – and less likely than older adults to check other reviews.
Younger generation most likely to read and write reviews
Young adults are most likely to check online reviews routinely, but no more likely than older adults to look at online comments sometimes.
The Explore Research survey found 40% of those aged 18-34 always look at online reviews before booking, against 37% of 35-54-year-olds and 24% of those over 55.
Yet 97% of 35-54-year-olds said they check online reviews sometimes against 92% of younger holidaymakers. Women appear slightly more likely than men to study reviews online.
The sharpest difference in frequency appears to be between better-off and less well-off households: 69% of ABC1 holidaymakers (those in professional, managerial or skilled jobs) said they always or often look at online reviews, against 57% among the rest of the population.
The young are most likely to contribute reviews – 36% of 18-34-year-olds saying they do so always or often, against 14% of adults over 55 and one quarter of 35-54-year-olds.
Women appear less likely than men to post online travel reviews, one in five saying they do so always or often against one in four men.
Women also appear less likely to post a negative review – just 4% saying they mostly do so, against 9% of men.
The young and those with more money are more likely to post negative reviews: 11% of 18-34-year-olds said they do so, against 4% of 35-54-year-olds and 5% of the over-55s.
Similarly, 10% of better-off adults said they write mostly negative reviews compared with 3% of the rest of the population.
A minority is influencing the majority
The results confirm the findings of a similar study for Travel Weeklysix months earlier.
Together they suggest 35% of a sample of 1,000 recent holidaymakers always check online reviews before booking.
Two-thirds (65%) said they do so always or often. However, 34% never write a review and 77% seldom or never do.
Both studies suggest men are twice as likely as women to contribute a review, but women are markedly more cautious about accepting the content of a review.
In the June 2012 survey, 60% of women said they check multiple reviews before forming an opinion, against 42% of men.
Younger adults are most likely to write reviews, 35% of the 1,000 respondents in the two surveys doing so always or often, against one in 10 adults over 55.
Broadly, we could conclude: a minority of young men are influencing the opinions of a majority of UK holidaymakers and the booking behaviour of a significant minority – but women are more likely to show caution in accepting their views.
● Explore Research surveyed 500 UK adults in December from its database of 180,000. All had taken an overseas break in the previous two years. Exploreresearch.co.uk