Travel review sites often become the arenas where hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses are made and ruined. It may sound dramatic, but those in the travel and hospitality industries know that the reviews on these sites are seen across thousands of consumers and can heavily impact purchasing decisions.
Managing online reviews becomes easier when you know more about the review platforms themselves, and who uses them. Which audiences flock to travel review sites? Where are they located? What devices do they use for their travel review needs?
We dug into these questions, by analyzing online traffic data gathered with our own ZQ Intelligence software, across eight popular travel review sites: Yelp, Travelocity, Priceline, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, and Orbitz.
The insights below can offer illuminating guidance for hoteliers, restaurateurs, and all those in the travel and hospitality space who must make it their business to monitor and engage with online reviews in order to survive in a competitive market.
WHO USES TRAVEL REVIEW SITES?
Within our ZQ Intelligence panel, the Baby Boomer generation (ages 45-54) is by far the most active in using travel review sites, making up 32% to 41% of the user base across all eight sites examined.
Baby Boomers are certainly keen to travel (38% say they have a travel bucket list), so it makes sense that they turn to travel review sites during trip planning, for recommendations and pricing information. If this is your target demographic, you can engage best with your consumers on Travelocity (41% of traffic comes from Baby Boomers), Hotels.com (38%), and Booking.com (37%). Because many users actually make bookings through these sites, the reviews left in the comments section may be especially influential at the time of booking.
Following Baby Boomers, Millennials (ages 25-34) contribute the next highest percentage of traffic to travel review sites.
Our ZQ Intelligence findings showed that Millennials were well-represented across all eight sites, ranging from 19% to 27% of the user base — businesses targeting this generation really can’t afford to ignore any major online review platform. The top review sites to find Millennials include Yelp (27% of its traffic comes from Millennials), Priceline (27%), TripAdvisor (26%), and Expedia (26%).
Often described as digital natives, Millennials appear to spread their research and activities across the web, likely gathering information from multiple sources before making decisions. Because these consumers don’t stick to just one or two sites, businesses must be flexible and active in managing a presence on multiple review sites, in order to keep up with Millennial consumers.
The ZQ Intelligence data found Gen X (ages 35-44) to be slightly less active than the Millennial generation on most travel review sites, with a handful of exceptions. Gen X makes up more of the user base than Millennials for Travelocity (24% compared to 19%, respectively), and data for Booking.com shows these two generations at about equal usage of the site (21% of traffic comes from Gen X and just under 22% from Millennials).
Businesses targeting Gen X should focus online review management on Travelocity (24% of its traffic comes from Gen X), Priceline (23%), and Hotels.com (23%).
Other than the Silent Generation (who contributes less than 10% of online traffic to review sites), Generation Z (ages 18-24) accounted for the next lowest volume of traffic on the eight sites studied. Yelp and TripAdvisor each see 14% of traffic from Gen Z, which is more than any of the other sites. Expedia and Priceline are contenders as well, each earning about 12% of traffic from Gen Z.
It makes sense to see fewer Gen Z’ers on these sites, as this young generation doesn’t hold a lot of disposable income yet — though that doesn’t mean you should hold off on marketing to them. Research suggests that Gen Z is already influencing their families’ travel decisions and in a few short years, they’ll have enough disposable income to set off on plenty of their own worldly adventures
Keep in mind, Gen Z’s online tastes run overwhelmingly towards social media platforms. When it comes to travel inspiration, this generation is heavily influenced by photos their friends post on social media. While travel review sites still have a place for young consumers, travel and hospitality businesses should be active on the right social media platforms in order to truly reach Gen Z.
WHAT DEVICES ARE THEY USING?
PCs are by far the most popular device for accessing online reviews. Anywhere from 71% to 82% of consumers on travel review sites use a PC as their device of choice.
The next biggest contender is, predictably, the mobile phone. Yelp claims a higher percentage of visitors who report using “phone only” (18%) than the other review sites analyzed. This likely coincides with Yelp being one of the most popular sites for Millennials and Gen Z, demographics known to not only use mobile phones frequently but also for a wide variety of internet-related activities.
Tablet usage proves to be lower than PC or mobile phone usage, but not irrelevant. Travelocity and Booking.com — two of the review sites most heavily used by the Baby Boomer generation — showed the largest percentage of visitors who report using “tablet-only” (7% and 6%, respectively). While the percentages seem minuscule, it’s likely worthwhile for businesses to optimize their websites for tablet screens, so they don’t alienate those travel-ready Boomers who conduct research solely via tablet.
REVIEW MANAGEMENT SHOULD BE A PRIORITY FOR TRAVEL AND HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES
The social proof offered by online reviews is an especially strong force in the travel industry, where consumers are often visiting new and foreign places, and therefore seek advice and insight from others who have gone before them.
With a wide variety of reasons for travel — from spontaneous solo adventure, to family vacations, to "bleisure" (a combo of business and leisure) — finding reviews shared by others in similar travel situations matters a lot. These shared experiences become trusted sources for decision-makers when booking transportation and hotels, and planning activities and events.
Reviews can push new customers to convert, or drive them away; and with a smart response to a bad review, you can even turn a potential loss into a success story. Using the unique insight gathered from our ZQ Intelligence data, you can better capture your target demographic by focusing time and resources on the review sites your consumers value most.