According to the report, Online Guest Reviews and Hotel Classification Systems: An Integrated Approach, the integration of guest reviews into hotel classification can yield financial gains while meeting customer needs and expectations.
The report, jointly prepared by UNWTO and Norwegian Accreditation, an agency of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries of Norway, through its QualityMark Norway programme, looks into how hotel classifications and online guest reviews can be incorporated to reduce the gap between guests’ expectations and experiences.
The report shows that a refined and integrated model, whether through full integration or in parallel, is expected to have positive financial impacts as consumer confidence in hotel classificationincreases purchase intention.
The emergence of user-generated content reviews has revolutionized the travel decision-making process as travellers are increasingly dependent on online guest reviews to make their purchase decisions. As online travel-related searches are on the rise, hotel classifications and guest reviews have complementary roles in the search process.
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. Official hotel classifications are often used by consumers as a filter while guest reviews are key in taking a final decision.
In view of these trends, there is increasing interest in taking the classification process to the digital/social sphere, with regions and associations like Abu Dhabi, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association and Hotelleriesuisse exploring the integration of online guest reviews into traditional methods for hotel classification.
The report presents an integrated approach whereby guest reviews add a subjective dimension to the objective elements of hotel classifications, thereby refining the classification method.
The report counted on interviews conducted by QualityMark Norway, Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research, Tourism Ireland and AA Ireland as well as with the views of executives, managers and general managers of hotels, guest review providers and online travel agents.