The study was conducted by Tourism Economics on behalf of the world's largest travel website TripAdvisor. It found that bookings made through the user-generated-content (UGC) website were directly related to £1.7bn of tourism spending in the UK – around 2.2 per cent of the total tourism spend last year.
“Sites such as TripAdvisor have fundamentally changed the way consumers both research and shop for their holiday and leisure activities, to their benefit,” explained David Goodger, director of Tourism Economics.
“Travel consumers can now afford to be more selective in their purchasing decisions which has really seen those providing a quality product or service in this industry rise to the top.
“The great thing about UGC sites is that in addition to building consumer confidence and increasing spending prior to travel, they have leveled the playing field for businesses big and small.”
TripAdvisor under attack
TripAdvisor came under heavy scrutiny late last year, sparked by the Cutting Edge documentary Attack of the TripAdvisors on Channel 4, which aired in November.
Just over a week later, the website rolled out a new customer support line for registered business owners and managers in a bid to send a ‘strong message’ about the TripAdvisor’s commitment to customer care.
But further investigations revealed an array of security loopholes and that some people are using the site to try and ‘blackmail’ hotel owners. This culminated with TripAdvisor being banned from claiming that its reviews are ‘honest, real or trusted’.
Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business, believes this new study shows the positive side of online review websites; they have a significant impact on the UK economy and are apparently raising the standards within the hotel and tourism sectors.
“The travel industry has long been ahead of the curve in adopting UGC and really tapping into this to benefit both consumers and businesses alike,” said Petersen.
“Property and site owners that have been truly embracing and engaging with this content not only benefit through the consumer feedback they receive but they have also raised the quality standards of the industry as a whole in the UK.
“We knew that our community of over 56 million unique users contribute great consumer insight to each other and the industry but now we see that sites like ours can also drive real economic value.”
Key findings from the TripAdvisor and Tourism Economics study:
- Over 25 per cent of TripAdvisor users either stayed at hotels longer, spent more or undertook more activities as a result of using the website.
- The average domestic spending per trip of a UK TripAdvisor user is estimated to be over 20 per cent higher than the average online booking.
- UGC sites ‘level the playing field’, with more than half of survey respondents reporting that they discovered new hotels which aren’t part of a chain through TripAdvisor.
The Tourism Economics research was carried out in May 2012.