Social media rivals formal reviews for hotel influence, Cornell finds

UNITED STATES User-generated hotel reviews and suggestions posted on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor are on par with traditional review sources like the Forbes Travel Guide in terms of influence, a new survey from Cornell University says.

Female leisure travelers are actually more likely to make hotel booking decisions based on social media influence than from more formal reviews, while male leisure travelers are slightly less likely to use social media as the determining factor. The same holds true among business travelers, although business travelers of both genders are less likely to be influenced by reviews in general—likely the result of organizational travel rules.

Women are significantly more likely to read a review on TripAdvisor than are men. While women are equally likely to read both professional reviews and consumer reviews, men are more likely to rely on the professional reviews.

Cornell researchers found that when planning for a leisure travel, consumers are more likely to consult friends and family than when the trip is for business. Business travelers rely first on their company’s recommendations, although many consult search engines.

By contrast, leisure travelers cast a much wider net when picking a hotel, looking first to recommendations from friends and family—especially for female travelers. More leisure travelers than business travelers employ search engines, travel websites and meta-search websites like Expedia, Priceline and Kayak. In general, leisure travelers more frequently consult more available sources than do business travelers.

The survey involved interviews with more than 2,500 hotel customers in the United States. The full report, called “How Travelers Use Online and Social Media Channels to Make Hotel-choice Decisions,” can be downloaded for free.