In the last year, almost 1 in every 4 UK holidaymakers used Tripadvisor to research their holiday before they booked. Given the plurality of information now out there – online and offline – for people to research and get advice on their travel choices, this number is very high. One in four UK consumers are using the same source to get information that influences what is usually a significant purchase. And this source is generated by other consumers, it is a classic online community.
The research, from WTMs 2010 Industry Report, found that 36% of UK consumers used some kind of social media to research locations, hotels, airlines and other purchases or decisions before booking a holiday. Of these consumers two-thirds used Tripadvisor, by far the most popular source of information, reviews or advice. A much smaller proportion (34% of all those who used social media to do research) used Facebook and even smaller proportions used YouTube (231%) or Twitter (17%). That over a third of all consumers are going to social media before booking their holidays indicates its increasing importance as a resource that informs and influences consumer decisions. That two-thirds of all of these (so 24% of all consumers) are using Tripadvisor shows the importance of that channel.
Tripadvisor is a classic online community. Consumers read reviews and information from others. They connect with people based on content and a common need, question, interest or concern. For example people who are interested in hotels in Paris can connect through the reviews – some writing them and some reading them. This is not a space where people become friends, and in most cases people don’t care who has written the reviews, they just care about the content. This makes Tripadvisor very scalable and is the reason more and more users are turning to it for information. For every piece of information that is added, any users who are interested in that content could benefit.
And more than just using these sites as an information source, consumers are making real decisions on the basis of them. The same research found that when a users researched their holiday choices in social media, less than half then went on to book their original choices. 35% decided to change their choice of hotel, 15% changed their travel agent or tour operator, and 12% decided to visit a different country altogether.
Holidays are typically an expensive purchase and one consumers think about and research before booking. This study shows that an increasingly large number are turning to social media to help them with this research, and most of them are turning to one site – Tripadvisor. And those that do this research are likely to change their plans and original travel decisions.