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Hotel Reviews Play An Important Role In Decision Making Process Of The Visitors Impacting Sustainable Tourism

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Considering the importance of digital identity, every hotel today has its own website to display these feedbacks and for those who don’t have their own websites are helped out by number of upcoming review websites like Tripadvisor, Travelguru etc. Here, reviews play a role of verbal publicity done by the people who have been to that particular place and experienced it. A study says 80% of the reviews which are displayed on websites are positive, but they constitute only 50% genuine reviews (Rawstrone, 2016). Recent news exposed a group of people who took contracts for creating artificial reviews just to manipulate reputation of the client organisations (Keller, 2018). This means, the content on which most of the clients’ decisions depend are manipulated.

The tourism industry today is highly dependent and influenced by the hotel facility provided at every place, as the maximum tourism today is for leisure. The research subject is to study the impact of this ‘review system’ on the current hotel industry and to anticipate its impact in the coming years. This paper aims to study whether creating an image of any hotel through reviews and ratings is still making the hotel and consequently the tourism industry sustainable. Keywords –Reviews, sustainability, hotels, accommodationIntroduction –Sustainability today is gaining importance in almost all the fields related to the mankind. We humans live in an ecosystem, which means each one of us is dependent on the other for some or the other reason.

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The interdependency here is not just between in the current population but is on the ageing population as well as on the posterity. This sense of responsibility makes ‘sustainability’ an important living aspect for humans. The ecosystem we live in is not just about humans but also consists of nature, non-living elements, resources and services. Thus, the responsibility we take for our young ones must be shared towards all the other members of our ecosystem. Talking about ‘Sustainable Tourism’, UNESCO defined it as “tourism that respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment” (John Fien, 2010). Tourism industry today is one of the ruling service industries and is highly dependent on the nature, the architecture, the food, the culture and the accommodations.

According to most of the definitions available, sustainable tourism is about tourism’s dependency on nature and resources. Though it is an important element, people today, from all over the world, look towards tourism as a source of leisure and relaxation which means they are highly concerned about what type and quality of accommodation they are provided with. Aligningback the traditional method of hotel booking, travellers nowadays refer to online review and decide in which hotel they would want to accommodate.

Nature and Scope of Study –In today’s scenario, where tourism is contributing approximately 10% of total global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (Sustaining Tourism), it is important to make tourism industry sustainable in all means i. e. naturally, service wise etc. The nature of this article is to study the impact of growing attention gained by the online reviews and also to study its impact on the decision making of the travellers. This study would bring to notice the truism of these reviews and whether they are having an impact on the sustainability of tourism as a whole. The data collected and analyzed, is derived from the travel passionate and travel experienced people from Pune and its outskirts. This data speaks about, what and how much is the role of ‘Reviews’ in the decision-making process of travellers, while booking their accommodation at any destination. It would also provide with the inputs about the reliability of these reviews.

Statement of Problem –

Travellers today rely highly on the reviews, showcased on the hotel websites or the ‘review websites’ and make their decisions on these bases, which may not be reliable.

The reviews displayed on the hotel websites, may be manipulated, which misleads the viewers, harming the sustainable growth of that particular tourism destination.

This cycle of manipulation and reliability on reviews, may continue causing threat to the tourism industry.

Objective of Study –

To study and understand what role of hotel reviews in decision making of the travellers.

To understand traveller’s view about these hotel reviews.

Statement of Hypothesis –‘Hotel Reviews displayed on the digital platform of the Hotel, may influence the decision making process of travellers towards Hotel Booking. But if such reviews are manipulated, it may impact negatively to the Hotel Industry itself in the long run. ’Need and Relevance –1. UNWTO data shows that before making an online hotel reservation, consumers visit on average14 different travel-related sites with about three visits per site, and carry out nine travel- related searches on search engines. (UNWTO)2. Recent news from 2018 NYT News Services, by Michael Keller brought to notice, Martin Vassilev who boosted fake reviews for a video on the well-known video website. (Keller, 2018) This means hotel reviews may be manipulated in the same way, which would be misleading for the people referring them. 3. If this goes on and people continue to believe it, it would harm the sustainability of hotels and broadly the tourism industry.

From the above pir chart, it can be observed that people from the age group upto 20 years and thereafter upto the age of 40 years are more interested in travelling. These people make almost 85% of the responses, considering the sample size. 2. Business/ProfessionsWhile making the hotel bookings, the business and profession of a person does play a vital role, with respect to his choices and preferences. It can be observed that maximum reponses are from students followed by employees, businessmen and professors. This means the research outcome is influenced by these people in respective share. The responses received from the above mentioned samples are based on the following questioned and can be analysed as follows.

How do you plan your travel?[image: ]The above question was asked to the respondents in order to know the scope of them going through the hotel websites and reviews. Considering the available options for booking your travel, it is necessary to know the most widely opted option. In the above figure it can be observed, that 71. 8% of the repondents plan their travel by themselves. This means they do all their hotel booking by themselves through oline websites. In this case, they are bound to go through the reviews, without which they would be able to decide upon the choice of hotel to be booked. People planning their travel through a travel company take 24. 7% share of the responses. These people, even if they plan travel through travel company, are very keen to know about the accomodations at every places and they do check the hotels selected by the company online. This means even these people read the reviews. Thus it can be said that almost 96. 5% of the people atleast go through the reviewsa bout the hotels they want to visit.

What is your frequency of travelling?[image: ]This question was posed to know the frequency of the views to the reviews. Taking into consideration the above figure of 96. 5%, it is important to know how often these people go through the process of planning their travel, as it is multiplied by the views received by the reviews. In the above figure, it can be observed that 49. 4% of the respondents travel annually followed by 30. 6% respondents travelling half yearly, 10. 6% respondents travelling quarterly and 9. 4% respondents travelling once in a month. If analysed, we can say that 30. 6% respondents travelling half yearly if view the reviews every time, the views are doubled. Similarly, the 10. 6% people travelling quarterly, views are tripled and for the people travelling every month, the views would increase 12 times. This means even though, their share in responses is lesser than the people travelling annually, their share in viewing the reviews in sum exceeds the share of people travelling annually. It can thus concluded, that the frequency of the person travelling does affect the referring of the hotel reviews.

What is your most frequent type of travel?This question was asked in order to know what type of hotels is most referred to by the people. The purpose and type of travel highly influence the choice of type of hotel. [image: ]In the above figures, it can be clearly marked that most people have a family trip as the part of their travel followed by Solo Trip, Adventure Trip and then Corporate Trip. The huge share of Family trips in the above responses indicates that people so travelling are concerned with the quality of the hotel they stay in. This means from among the total people travelling, almost 80% people are concerned about the reviews of their place of accommodation.

Rate each of the following, according to the importance of the facility/quality for you. For the above question, a linkert scale was provided to rate each of the hotel facility as to whether it matters or not while making the choice of hotel. a. Air Conditioning[image: ]In the above figure it can be observed that the facility of Air Conditioner is quite important for the customers. Though the people saying ‘Secondary’ and ‘Hardly matters’ share a equal count, the respondents saying ‘quite important’ may be from the people who go mostly for the family trip, where leisure and comfort is of utmost importance. The count of ‘Most important’ is lower than expected, which means rooms without air conditioners may also be the choice of the customers. Room Service[image: ]Room Service is something which differentiates each hotel from the other. This is reflected from the above figure where maximum people say that it is ‘Most Important’, followed by ‘Quite Important’ and ‘Most Needed’. Room service is something that can increase the reputation of the hotel and the one which can bring a hotel to ashes. Being a human factor, each visitor may have a different experience about it and consequently will have number of opinions about it, which are converted into reviews thereafter. This means, the number of reviews available and number of reviews referred, about the room service, both are in large number. b. Security[image: ]Security is considered to be the crucial factor while making choices about the accommodation. Though the responses received in this respect are little surprising, here most of the people say its ‘Needed’ followed by people saying that is it ‘Most Important’. This means, in the case of security, which is usually an important factor, the ‘Need’ and ‘Importance’ do not seem to be congruent, rather need is more but can be pacified to a certain extent when it comes to importance. c. Restaurant Facility[image: ]In the above figure it observed that the hotel facility is ‘Most Important’ for maximum of the tourists. Here having the food available at the place of accommodation is important mostly for the people who need to travel to number of places in a single travel. Thus, availability of restaurant facility, bearing quality is an important factor considered while making the choice of any hotel. d. Free Wi-Fi[image: ]This facility though introduced recently, seems to have gained importance, in quite short period. As reflected by the above figure, free Wi-Fi is quite important for the people while they choose their hotel accommodation. This is the addition to the subject of reviews, where the quality of signal can be commented upon. e. Parking Availability[image: ]In the above figure, 25 respondents say that the parking availability is the most needed while around 18 people say it to be most important one. Considering that most people travel for a family outing, they must be taking along their private car which needs to be parked at an accessible place. Thus for these people a hotel with the parking availability is the preferred option. Thus, from all the above findings, we can say that while making a single decision of booking a hotel, people do consider a number of facilities mentioned above, which meansthe reviews about these facilities are referred and believed upon for making the accommodation decision.

While making decision of Travel/ Hotel booking, which factor is very important for you? The above question was proposed to know that apart from the above facilities, which intangible factors are being considered by the customers while booking for a hotel. [image: ]In the above figure, we can see that around 30(maximum) respondents give importance to the recommendation given by their friends or family. The number of respondents giving importance to online reviews, though lower that recommendations, reflects to be higher than the Goodwill of the Hotel and even own past experiences. This states that people consider the online reviews to be authentic than self past experiences and the goodwill of the hotel which consequently has an impact on their decision making.

How often do you refer to online reviews?[image: ]To have found that many people do refer to online reviews, it is important to know how often they refer to it. In the above figure, it is observed that 40% percent people often refer to the online reviews, while 25. 9% people refer to reviews, every time they book for the hotel. The number of respondents who never refer to reviews is remarkably low, here, which means every person does refer to the reviews, though rarely.

If you consider the reviews, which type of reviews do you refer to the most?Online reviews are available in number of ways, especially when it comes to review websites. It is important to know which reviews are referred to the most, which will tell us about, how much people rely on the authenticity and accuracy of the reviews. [image: ]In the above figure, 52. 9% people refer to text reviews, which means they believe on the actual feedbacks of the people which are open ended and subjective. It is followed by star rating which 21. 2% people refer to. It is followed by reviews from photos which is 11. 8%. Numeric rating and Linkert scale rating is comparatively less referred being 8. 2% and 5. 9% respectively.

According to you, how many percent do the reviews resemble to the reality?[image: ]When found that people do refer and rely on online reviews, it is important to know whether the decision so made turns to be wise. It is observed in the case of reviews that reality may not resemble the reviews so made. The above figure shows that the reviews resemble the reality 47. 1% to the extent of 60%-80%. While 31. 8% when to the extent if 40%-60% and only 7. 1% when it comes to the extent of 80%-100%. This means most of the times, the reviews are somewhere near to the reality but do not resemble the reality to the fullest.

A study by Forrester and TripAdvisor says, 79% customers are reassured by a good response to a bad review. What’s your opinion?[image: ]When the reviews are written directly on the websites, there are chances of bad reviews also been displayed, in this case the customer’s wish to receive good response to give due consideration to their bad experience, this is done by the hotels through good responses to these bad reviews. Here, 40% people believe that good response to bad reviews reassures the customers, which is followed by 41. 2% people, who say that it hardly matters; the bad review still remains bad. Whereas very little percent of people say that they completely agree upon the statement. This means not only reviews but responses to these reviews also matter the customers.

What percent importance do reviews have in your decision making?[image: ]In the above figure 43. 5% people say that reviews is 60%-80% important in their decision making process. While 31. 8% people say it is 40%-60% important. While 11. 8% people say it is 80% – 100% important. It is to be noted that very few people say that reviews are 0%-20% important in decision making, which means most of the people hold reviews as the base for booking their hotel accommodations. Hypothesis testing –From the above findings, the statement of hypothesis can be tested as follows-

From the response received for the question ‘What percent importance do reviews have in your decision making?’ which says, over 43. 5% people’s decisions are influenced by the hotel reviews displayed on the digital platform of the hotel.

The responses received for the question, ‘According to you, how many percent do the reviews resemble to the reality?’ which says around 31. 8% times reality resembles reviews to the extent of 40% – 60%, which means the remaining reviews are not genuine and are manipulated.

Thus, the statement of hypothesis is said to be true. Findings –From the above findings and on the basis of Secondary data, it can be concluded as below

Hotel reviews are manipulated, which is misleading for the people referring them. Growing exposure to internet and soft-wares is a threat to this concept of manipulating reviews.

Only 41. 3% times the reality resembles the reviews up to 40%-60% extent. This means when the reviews are given to the hotel and are displayed on hotel website, the negative reviews are not displayed, giving out only positive image of that particular hotel.

Almost 44% of total people who refer to online reviews take their booking decision on the basis of reviews. This number may increase in near future considering the freedom and exposure, the young generation enjoys these days.

Among the responses received almost 85% of the responses are from young population ranging up to the age group of 35 – 40 years of age. It means this generation is already considering reviews to be important. This may imbibed in the travel culture of coming generations.

Thus, such manipulated review culture is a threat for the sustainability of the hotel industry and consequently the tourism sector as a whole. Conclusion –It can be concluded from the above references, findings and analysis that reviews are heaving a huge impact on the decision making of the customers. These reviews are manipulated to create a positive image of a hotel. It is thus suggested that,a.

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