The World Travel Market 2019 is being hosted in Cape Town this week. And an interesting presentation by Chris Gregory-Pasha, Senior Sales Manager for TripAdvisor - Middle East and Africa, made it abundantly clear that we as consumers, as travellers, are relying more and more on the word of strangers when planning our trips.
Trusting their opinions, their experiences to such an extent that we won't actually plan a trip, or book a hotel before reading reviews online. In fact, he says that 86% of travellers won't book their accommodation before reading at least a few online reviews by other travellers. And a whopping 89% of travellers do some sort of research on a destinations activities, restaurants, etc, before mapping their itinerary.
Now, as children, we are told not to talk to strangers. But listening seems to be fine.
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For TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Airbnb and other big players in the online travel booking space, reviews are everything. Not just for the platform itself and its customers, but also for the brands it hosts.
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A good review can catapult your business to new heights, whereas a few bad ones could sink you into the ground.
Chris says that there is always that expectation vs reality thing, and we as travellers want to eliminate any disappointments or fuss when travelling. We don't want to make the 'wrong choice'. We want our 5-star expectation to become reality. And this can (most often) be avoided by reading up on the 'real' experiences of people.
And it's not just online reviews, but pictures as well. Pictures shared on Instagram work as online reviews to some extent - especially when they provide the consumer with practical info, like where the restaurant can be found, tagging the name of the beach, a fantastic view, etc.
Instagram posts that fail to mention where a place/a view/a sight is situated or can be found, is a piece of useless information to the potential traveller, essentially.
Chris also noted that people are much less brand loyal than they used to be. We don't go online to book a specific hotel brand name, we book an experience. Whether we saw this experience on Insta, Pinterest, or on Traveller24, we don't book a stay or an airline brand anymore, we book based on what strangers have told us about it.
We know that. for example Turkish Airlines will have good service and food, maybe because we ourselves have experienced this first-hand, or we've read 100+ reviews by strangers who echoed this very message.
It seems that in the 2019 travel sphere, we are trusting strangers more than we are trusting ourselves. And maybe that's not necessarily such a bad thing.
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