HOLIDAYMAKERS are ditching expert travel guides in favour of online reviews by other travellers, according to new research.
Websites such as TripAdvisor, where people leave independent reviews and opinion, have overtaken the more traditional Lonely Planet-style guides.
A survey of 2,000 people found more than 70% of people now log onto the popular holiday review site before booking a hotel or destination.
It covers more than 212,000 hotels and 74,000 attractions in more than 30,000 destinations worldwide.
Professor Nigel Morgan, from the Welsh Centre for Tourism Research at Uwic, has been studying the phenomenon.
He said: “Word of mouth is one of the most tried and tested ways of marketing a tourism destination or hotel. As we know, good travelling experiences and places to stay will be passed from person to person, and these word-of-mouth testimonials are always far more valuable from a business point of view than traditional advertising and even celebrity endorsement.
“Today the online information found on blogs and review sites like TripAdvisor is one of the most powerful influencers when it comes to making travel decisions. The hundreds of reviews and the user-generated content found on these sites are excellent sources of word-of-mouth feedback about the experiences of other travellers.
“As with all word-of-mouth recommendations, these reviews will have an effect on consumers researching and planning trips as they provide details of the ‘real’ experience and will influence decisions.”
In addition to the hotel and destination reviews, users can rate an hotel, restaurant or place to see using a five-star rating system. They are then ranked by popularity based on how many reviews they’ve had and how positive people have been with their ratings.
For example, Mike Evan, from Gloucester, reviewed the National History Museum in St Fagans, Cardiff, as a “great day out” after visiting there this summer.
He wrote: “I have been meaning to take my wife to this museum for ages and we were both very impressed, The old cottages with log burning fires were wonderful. the grounds, even in winter were really good.
“Thoroughly recommended and entry is free, you only pay for parking, best value day out I have had in ages.”
The Aberystwyth Clifftop Railway ranks among the top 10 most popular attractions in Wales, according to TripAdvisor.
One visitor from Tucson in America wrote: “All in all, whatever the weather, if you stay in Aberystwyth, a trip up Constitution Hill is a must and though the climb by foot is not that taxing, travelling one way on some Victorian engineering is a most pleasant experience.”
Cardiff’s Park Plaza is rated as the most popular hotel in the capital, based on the reviews of 102 people who had stayed or eaten there.
Reviewers of the hotel include Donna Jardine, from Devon, who said: “We have just stayed at this hotel for our 15th wedding anniversary, it is so good you will not really need to leave it. The decor is superb. The staff all seem to enjoy their jobs and are consequently very pleasant and helpful.”
Caroline Sims, marketing manager for Park Plaza Hotel, said: “As more and more people use TripAdvisor to gain a real impression of the hotel and the quality of stay they’ll have, it has become one of our most important marketing tools.
“We’re thrilled with the number of positive reviews about Park Plaza as they really help draw in new guests, both business and leisure, and we do monitor it to ensure we maintain our top quality service for all guests.”