Executive Summary: This study addressed the central question of how digital natives perceive and use reviews as a means of communication in the tourism industry.
Thereby, researchers investigated what characteristics of a review make it relevant and significant to the digital target group and which presentation type attracts attention to become a decision factor for a booking. This study was done in collaboration with the IUBH University of Applied Sciences and Europe’s leading tour operator TUI.
In the age of digitalization, the internet has become a platform where consumers actively participate and share their views and experiences openly.
User Generated Content (UCG) shapes e-commerce, travel, and many other industries because consumers willingly and frequently communicate and express their opinions with companies through their reviews.
In the tourism industry and hospitality sector, reviews rate the performance and quality of a hotel to an extent where they can affect bookings, revenue, and overall success - both positively as well as negatively. A TrustYou study showed that hotels with higher review ratings are 3.9 times more likely to get booked compared to hotels with lower ratings when price is consistent. Guests have become multiplicators in the travel industry and hotels need to adapt strategies that reflect this change of online behavior.
Travelers’ communication with service providers can happen in various ways, such as opinions, images, or mutual commenting.Young travelers - or the target group of digital natives - are rising up as the next big group of travelers. They grew up with the technology of the digital age and are very accustomed to digital media, which challenges the tourism industry to rethink patterns, strategies, and ways to market their products.
Reviews have become a major decision making factor and impact the economic success of tourism-related businesses. This research aims to address the topic of reviews impacting booking decisions and communication behavior with digital target groups.
The IUBH University of Applied Sciences, the leading global tour operator TUI, and TrustYou raised the following questions in a multi-step approach:
- What makes a review relevant and meaningful from the point of view of digital target groups?
- Which form of presentations appeal to digital target groups and generate booking impulses?
- Which potential recommendations for action emerge from the empirical investigation with regard to the target group?
Definitions of digital target groups differ based on various interpretations and approaches within media and science and cover many groups such as Millennials or Generation Z. Crucial characteristics are that members of this group are frequently online, very mobile, and make spontaneous and confident decisions.
Digital natives are highly connected and well informed consumers. They can handle the sensory overload of numerous online offers extremely well. Technology has become a part of today’s life but the use, interpretation, and handling differ - also amongst digital natives.
As definitions of the digital native vary, this study chose to rely on a classic target group definition: by age. Thereby, the group was narrowed down to consumers of the age of 18 to 28, born between the years 1990 and 2000.
- 83% of the digital natives say that reviews play an important or a very important role for making a booking decision
- To trust a review, young travelers appreciate an authentic writing style (73%) as well as detailed (69%) and current (66%) reviews, not older than 3 months
- For hotel bookings, they prefer Booking.com (68%), followed by Google (61%), TripAdvisor and Expedia with 30% each as a review source.
- 80% of the participants said that images - either professional or consumer images - are important and very important to assess a hotel and make a booking decision
- 68% believe the best way to present reviews is on a scale, 51% consider a consolidated representation (combination of scale, score, and recommendation rate in percent) to be good and 29% prefer widgets.
Read the full report here
Research was conducted by: IUBH University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with TUI and TrustYou