Hotel Reviews: Who Do You Trust?

By Robert McGarvey

New research via hotel CRM company Revinate makes multiple points about us and hotel reviews and the big takeaway is that there’s a new sheriff in town and you probably can guess who.

First, however, know that Revinate says there’s evidence our mania for filing reviews is diminishing. Noted Revinate: “The number of reviews published on review sites and OTAs continues to grow year-over-year, but there is some indication that the popularity of writing reviews may be waning. In 2018, travelers wrote nearly 95 million hotel reviews. While this number is staggering, the number of new reviews only grew by 8% in 2018, compared to 27% in 2017.”

The growth in the numbers of reviews may be slowing but the numbers remain staggering.

Revinate continued: “While the average number of reviews per month per hotel increased 6% in 2018, from 53 to 56, growth has slowed significantly. In 2017, we noted a 34% increase in reviews per month per hotel. This suggests that review growth is slowing across the industry.”

I choked on that. The average number of reviews per hotel per month now is 56!

Where the data get really interesting is in the counting up of where reviews appear. Big changes are afoot.

Regular readers will recall that I long was a fan of Tripadvisor – until I stopped in 2017 amid a flurry of accusations that Tripadvisor had deleted reviews claiming rapes and other major crimes and problems at hotels.  

Tripadvisor also has had issues with fake reviews.

And the service still has problems with reviews claiming rapes.

Frankly I did not have a suitable replacement for Tripadvisor. But now there is one: Google.

Google, by Revinate’s accounting, is now the 900 pound gorilla, garnering an industry leading 30.1 million reviews in 2018.

In second place is with 28.3 million.

Tripadvisor is in third with 11.3 million.

Noted Revinate: “In 2017, the top 4 sites contributed 74% of the review volume Revinate analyzed. This year, a greater percentage came from just the top 3 sites. In other words, a few aggregators at the top are contributing the lion’s share of reviews—and those reviews are continuing to concentrate in fewer places.”

With review sites there’s an inevitability about the big getting bigger because the volume of reviews increases utility and validity.

But the story is Google which, out of nowhere, has vaulted into a leadership position. It makes sense. Many of us use Google multiple times every day. The last time I looked at is, well, I don’t remember because I rarely use it.

Ditto Tripadvisor nowadays.

To get to either service I have to make a special trip.

Whereas Google is in the fabric of my every day.

I’m looking up San Francisco hotels where do I start the search anyway? Google of course. Up pops the Phoenix Hotel in the Tenderloin, a personal favorite neighborhood and an appealing price ($209).

Then there are the reviews which Google gathers up from multiple services and calculates an average score. The Phoenix is 4.3 out of a possible five.

Even better I don’t actually have to read any reviews because Google has read them for me.

If I want to read them, however, they are a click away on Google.

Meantime, Google also is winning over more of us who want to book rooms on Google – and why not? We’re on the site researching the hotels so why not make it one stop shopping and book there too?

As for Google and reviews, Revinate numbers show it is on a tear. In 2017 its reviews increased by 207%. In 2018 that dropped to 75%. saw just a 10% bump up in 2018.

The bottom fell out at Facebook, incidentally. Per Revinate, “Facebook, which was #4 in 2017 and contributed 8.3% of reviews, dropped to the 6th spot and saw a 51% decrease in reviews.”

My bet: Google will solidify its lead in reviews in 2019. And it just may become our go to place for booking rooms too.

Is that good? Bad? What I can say is that it definitely is convenient and that is why Google is winning. It’s hard to see who can come along and offer more convenience. That’s why I say Google is undisputed champ. With no contenders in view.

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