A survey sponsored over a year ago by the reputed Australian architectural firm, Woods Bagot, on the reliability of the star rating system for hotels reveals what most hoteliers know intuitively and through experience – that the star rating system is less of a factor for prospective hotel guests than online reviews. Six months later the New York Times reported on the continued growth of that trend in an article headlined “Online Reviews of Hotels and Restaurants Flourish” by noting how they are “taking an ever-growing piece of the market from print guides”.
A year later, the San Francisco Chronicle reports on how user generated content is changing the buy decision with as many as 38 percent changing “the hotel where they stay because of what they learn” from the sites. The Chronicle article also notes how a “new crop of travel sites is aimed at making users smarter and making online travel planning more personal. They are trying to assume more of the role of travel agents, who traditionally offer a range of help, such as planning and suggestions about where to go, not just sell tickets to people who already know where they want to go”.
MarketWatch.com has a more recent article on how a “Top-Rated Travel Site Reinvents Traditional Postcards”. ZoomAndGo.com, which has been described as “Facebook meets Frommers”, stated to be one of the best social sites for exchanging reviews, tips, photos and videos related to travel, has made it easy for “backpackers and vacationers anywhere in the world (to) upload their own photos from a computer to their website and generate personalized, printed postcards that are then mailed out, through the postal service, to recipients anywhere in the world”. Travelers can also derive satisfaction from the fact that “$0.20 is donated to the charity of the sender’s choice from a list on the site”.