New research from Plum Guide reveals over half of Americans would refuse to book a holiday without reading online reviews, yet 46% have been seriously let down by a holiday because of them.
Increased anticipation around holidays in 2022 and the end of the U.S. travel ban on international visitors in November has kicked off a surge in both foreign and domestic travel. With each American planning on spending an average of $325.44 more on their holidays in 2022 than in 2021, Plum Guide’s research shows that what was once a helpful tool to aid decision making, has turned into an obsession that could cause more harm than good.
The survey of 4,000 global travelers, including 2,000 American travelers, reveals the extent of the automatic impulse to read multiple online reviews, despite being highly subjective at best or at worst fake and fraudulent*. Plum Guide warns of the potential emotional and financial cost to holidaymakers given that 4 in 5 - 79% - holidaymakers said customer reviews are important or essential when researching or booking a holiday, despite 3 in 4 - 75% -reporting to have previously experienced emotional upset or stress on holiday through misplaced trust in them.
Concerningly 67% of Americans would describe themselves as ‘obsessed’ with reading reviews, with almost half stating they would feel ‘emotionally distressed’ if they were to book a major holiday without reading any reviews first and 1 in 3 - 34% - of Americans believing they would suffer from sleepless nights if they couldn’t access them.
From reliance to obsession:
With Americans planning to spend an average of $4,849 on holidays in 2022, 7% more than in 2021, reliance on reviews needs urgently reconsidering advises Philip Fernbach, leading cognitive scientist, Professor of Marketing and co-author of The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone who collaborated with Plum Guide on the study.
Philip commented: “The consumer information environment has undergone a seismic shift in the last ten years, and online reviews are now the predominant source of information that consumers rely on. Unfortunately, the average star rating is heavily biased, fake reviews are common and for experiences like holidays, different consumers can have radically different tastes. The research by Plum Guide shows that people trust reviews tremendously, even admitting to being obsessed with them despite sometimes experiencing substantial negative repercussions of this trust. It would be better for consumers if they could supplement their reliance on reviews with more expert or critical evaluations that are not plagued by the myriad limitations of the online review system.”
To emphasize the absurdity of taking an anonymous person’s opinion as gospel, the homestay company projected real 1-star reviews on to landmarks of cultural or historical importance in New York and London. Demonstrating that even The Guggenheim Museum, The High Line and Brooklyn Bridge aren’t safe from scorn and misleading comments. 1-star reviews range from ‘No fun rides’, the ‘High Line, low point’, to ‘Underwhelming. It’s just a bridge’. The eye-catching projections hope to encourage travelers to think twice about the validity of highly subjective reviews when researching a place to stay on holiday.
Plum Guide Founder and CEO Doron Meyassed commented: “For restaurants we have the Michelin Star, yet for booking travel, we only have the opinions of anonymous strangers. Booking through a platform such as Plum Guide in which every property is subjected to a vetting process by real, trained critics offers peace of mind and truly special experiences. To highlight the absurdity of relying solely on online reviews to find the exceptional, we thought it would be interesting to project some on to a few of the most critically acclaimed and iconic locations in London and New York to start a conversation which challenges our obsession with reviews.”
The research findings also show that:
- 3 in 4 - 75% - of Americans believe customer reviews are generally correct and accurate when booking a holiday, despite almost half being let down by a holiday because of a misleading customer review
- 3 in 4 - 72% - of Americans said they trust customer reviews, but 4 in 5 - 81% - agree there needs to be a more trustworthy and accurate system than just customer reviews when booking a holiday
- -Nearly 3 in 5 - 58% - of Americans find the choice and research required when booking a holiday overwhelming and stressful
- When booking a holiday, Americans need to read an average of 17 reviews to feel comfortable booking anything, with nearly 1 in 10 needing to read up to 40 reviews
The Long Live The Critic projections are taking place now in New York and London at these locations:
- Guggenheim Museum
- The High Line
- Brooklyn Bridge
- Flatiron Building
- Tate Modern
- Tower of London
- National Gallery
- Royal Festival Hall
*McKinsey Travel Industry report