Jason Mattis

Hospitality Ratings and Reviews

Why Consumers Love And Depend on Social Proof

Anticipation and planning are at the heart of any good vacation. The most enjoyable getaways are preceded by weeks, months, or even years of excitement, combined with a careful planning process that ensures the best experience possible. These two vacation essentials are inextricably linked and these days, they are closely tied to ratings and reviews. Whether they are booking stays at rental properties or planning a great meal out, customers want to learn as much as possible about future hospitality experiences.

Although important across numerous sectors, ratings and reviews play a unique role in shaping purchasing decisions and brand perceptions in hospitality. This effort involves not only the businesses that provide accommodations — hotels, resorts, and vacation rental businesses, or example — but also, theme parks and other attractions that keep travelers entertained when they arrive.

Brands that fail to build on this demand for reviews will miss out on a valuable opportunity to support travelers and get them excited for new experiences. Below, we will explain why they spend so much time examining reviews — and why this insight plays such a significant role in driving bookings, reservations, and other customer activity.

Why Are Travelers So Dedicated to Ratings and Reviews?

There are many ways to gather hospitality information or make vacation plans. Tried-and-tested options such as agencies may not be as common these days, but they're still available. Social media, blogs, and even word of mouth are also great options. Why, then, do so many vacationers seem to place the most trust in ratings and reviews? Compelling reasons include the following:

Beating the Post-Vacation Blues

For many vacations, the travel research process provides the opportunity to live vicariously through fellow travel enthusiasts, even when they are not immediately able to take the trips they desire. This can be a wonderful antidote to a dreaded phenomenon: the post-vacation blues, which strikes as soon as travelers start heading home from amazing getaways. For many, the best way to deal with their return to the real world is to begin imagining their next big escape.

While early travel research efforts often center around social media, blogs, or conventional books and videos, reviews bring a dose of realism to the experience. This is where aspiring vacationers get the nitty-gritty details about what, exactly, it's like to travel — and these details can make reading about travel opportunities feel downright fascinating. Add pictures or even video clips to the mix, and the appeal quickly becomes clear: the simple act of reading about travel is enjoyable in and of itself.

Avoiding a Bad Experience

Many consumers appreciate reviews because this detailed insight helps them learn from others' bad experiences. In some cases, negative reviews will steer users away from particular accommodations or activities — but for others, simply knowing what exactly made someone else's experience subpar can play heavily into the booking or reservation process.

If, for example, a particular traveler is absolutely committed to booking a stay with a particular property, reviews might reveal which rooms or packages are best avoided or which requests should be made to elevate the experience.

Another manifestation of this phenomenon? The fear of missing out. FOMO is a big deal in travel; people hate learning they've missed out on amazing opportunities or experiences. Through reviews, they can confirm that they know about the best attractions and restaurants — and that their itineraries include every important experience.

Another manifestation of this phenomenon? The fear of missing out. FOMO is a big deal in travel; people hate learning they've missed out on amazing opportunities or experiences. Through reviews, they can confirm that they know about the best attractions and restaurants — and that their itineraries include every important experience.

Sharing Their Own Feedback

Travelers are quick to turn to ratings and reviews when they need insight, but they also enjoy returning the favor and sharing their opinion. This serves many functions: many people simply like to be part of a deeply engaged community of travelers, while others have a pay it forward mentality and want to help users, just as they were helped. Still others look to this as yet another form of recovering from the post-vacation blues: reliving favorite travel memories while sharing them online. With negative experiences, reviews simply allow disappointed vacationers to vent.

Top Resources for Travel Ratings and Reviews

A wide variety of websites and platforms offer opportunities for reviewers to share their thoughts on their previous travel experiences. Some sites are clearly review-oriented, while, with others, reviews are included without being the main focus. In general, today's travelers tend to gravitate toward the following resources:


Possibly the original travel review platform, TripAdvisor offers a wealth of insight into hotels, attractions, restaurants, and more. This is a highly respected resource and, without a presence there, hospitality brands risk distrust among otherwise enthusiastic vacationers. In a global study from TripAdvisor and Ipsos MORI, respondents cite descriptive and helpful reviews as one of the biggest reasons why they rely on the platform, with an impressive 85 percent claiming that the reviews they read accurately reflect their own experiences.


Another prominent review site, Yelp is primarily associated with dining but also has a powerful role to play in other areas of the hospitality business. As with TripAdvisor, written content plays heavily into Yelp's perceived value, with results from a survey conducted by Material indicating that the vast majority of people trust these full-fledged reviews over simple star ratings. Many travelers also find value in Yelp's roundups of accommodations, such as the Top 100 Places to Stay lists. This provides a broad range of options at all price points and in many geographic locations, with the goal of getting travelers thinking about the possibilities before they dive deeper into reviews.

Google Maps

Travelers often turn to search engines right away when seeking details about hospitality brands — so it stands to reason that reviews made available directly through Google would be among the most accessible and the most impactful. Users trust the experiences highlighted by Google's Local Guides, plus the wealth of feedback available in the reviews from Google Maps.

According to BrightLocal, this is one of the best solutions for researching local businesses — so it can be capitalized on for customers who have already embarked on their getaways but need immediate insight into nearby opportunities.

Travel Booking Websites

Sites such as Booking.com differ somewhat from the review resources highlighted above, in that the leads that end up on these sites are highly qualified and clearly motivated to make reservations as soon as possible. Reviews have less of an influence on whether they book accommodations, and rather, determine which properties are selected and at what level (room versus suite, for example). The multi-purpose nature of these sites may appeal greatly to practical customers, who want a little feedback but are ultimately prepared to finalize the booking process.

Brand Websites

Customers shouldn't have to work hard to find ratings or reviews. While some will happily seek these on their own, immediate access is always appreciated. Quotes from testimonials are always an option, but widgets make it easy to build in feedback from TripAdvisor. This allows traditional properties to compete with Airbnb, where access to reviews is one of the most appealing propositions.

There are many viable options for highlighting reviews directly on brand pages. These may be incorporated into the homepage, but booking areas or accommodation pages also help. Brands with multiple locations may benefit from reviews on geographic-oriented pages, where customers can learn more about individual properties and what, exactly, distinguishes them from one another.

Chicago's Talbott Hotel provides an excellent example for how to incorporate reviews into hospitality websites, rather than strictly relying on other platforms. A compilation of thousands of reviews delivers a helpful glimpse at how the property is perceived across the web. Prompts about reviews for you can even offer segmented insight into what specific types of travelers can expect while staying at this hotel.

Leveraging Reviews

Opportunities for Hotels, Resorts, And Vacation Rental Companies

Ratings and reviews have played a central role in the research and booking process for years — and they aren't about to disappear anytime soon. If anything, travelers are even more committed to finding consumer insights and building these into the planning process. Hospitality businesses that fail to seek out or display this feedback risk missing out on a valuable chance to build trust and prompt action among qualified leads. Top solutions include:

  • Ask for feedback. This is a situation in which quantity is nearly as important as quality. Customers trust reviews more when hundreds or even thousands of them are readily available. Despite this, they often neglect to contribute reviews of their own. They may need encouragement and regular reminders. Travel brands can achieve this through the power of email. Following checkout, for example, hotel or resort customers should receive thank you emails that provide an easy opportunity to share their thoughts.
  • Offer in-person reminders. Many hotels and resorts prominently display stickers revealing not only how they've fared on top review sites (especially TripAdvisor), but also, requesting reviews. This approach emphasizes the expectation of eventually leaving a review — the moment travelers arrive, they realize that their feedback is appreciated.
  • Be mindful of page design. While we've already recommended featuring reviews directly on property webpages, this convenience shouldn't arrive at the cost of design quality. It can be easy for reviews to contribute to a cluttered appearance, so care must be taken to ensure that the page still appears sleek and streamlined. The aforementioned Talbott Hotel in Chicago accomplishes this with its reviews summary feature, which doesn't clutter the main page but also provides a clear reminder that reviews are available.
  • Offer curated testimonial pages. A solid review strategy can be supplemented with testimonials, which typically feature glowing feedback from happy customers or clients. Many hospitality websites feature dedicated testimonial pages, where customers speak at length about the small touches that made their experiences so memorable. The insights these passionate travelers provide will be far more meaningful than lists of amenities and may even be more impactful than gorgeous travel images.
  • Highlight specific amenities. Reviews may delve into brands in general, but sometimes, customers prefer more specificity. For example, hotels that offer onsite spas may provide access to reviews that specifically detail the spa experience, rather than focusing on hotel rooms or suites. The Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort, for example, accomplishes this with a dedicated testimonials page for the spa.

What About Negative Reviews?

Not every vacationer is going to have a wonderful experience. This isn't always the fault of the brand in question, but there's no denying that disappointed travelers want to speak their mind. While it's sadly not possible to score 5-star reviews all the time, a lot can be gleaned from how brands respond to negative reviews. Polite and respectful responses can go a long way toward redeeming brands and, at minimum, reveal something important about the quality of customer service.

Keep in mind that negative feedback shouldn't simply be endured. Rather, this provides an excellent opportunity to learn what customers really think and what, exactly, would stop them from booking again in the future. While some issues will be difficult or downright impossible to truly address, others can be fixed and may potentially lead to better customer satisfaction in the future. Tracking trends is especially important; if a concern shows up repeatedly in reviews, it should be addressed promptly if possible.

In general, responding to reviews is a great idea. Data compiled by TripAdvisor indicates that 77 percent of travelers are more inclined to book if they notice that hospitality brands respond to reviews.

Embrace Hospitality Ratings and Reviews

Ratings and reviews provide exciting opportunities for hotels, resorts, and many other hospitality brands to connect with consumers and get them excited about future getaways. Make the most of this opportunity to build a solid reputation on the foundation of social proof.

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