Guest Ratings Hold More Weight Than Brand Value, Expedia Study Finds

Hotel search

Seattle, Wash.—A new study of more than 900 consumers found that when it comes to hotel property selection, price and guest ratings carry more weight than brand value.

The choice-based conjoint study by Expedia Group and Unabashed Research had participants select hotel properties for two destinations of their choice. The study leveraged a Van Westendorp price sensitivity meter in order to generate pricing for 12,642 randomly generated search results, a representative room image for each property, and Expedia Group’s most popular hotel brand in each star rating category. To determine the relationship between individual attributes and their likelihood of influencing the selection, a hierarchical Bayesian inference model was built using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo simulation.

Price was the most influential driver of hotel selection. Promotions and discounts that represent a real value to the customer proved to be another way to capture hotel shoppers’ attention and encourage them to select a property.

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Hotel brand value did carry an advantage over other attributes, including remodel callouts, room image and hotel ratings (stars), according to the study. Premium brands showed more influence on selection, with shoppers rewarding those brands with some ADR premium.

“While consumers want the best deal on travel bookings, their individual selections ultimately reflect their values,” said Abhijit Pal, head of research, Expedia Group. “The consumer searching for a budget accommodation will look for the best value within their constraints, while someone with more disposable income may prefer a luxury option and be willing to pay more per night, but not more than they have to.”

Guest ratings have a strong influence on consumer selection, with a 72 percent chance that any consumer will value guest ratings higher than hotel brand, according to the study. Participants overall were willing to pay more for a hotel with higher guest ratings: 24 percent more for a 3.9 rated hotel versus a 3.4 rated hotel, and 35 percent more for a 4.4 rated hotel versus a 3.9 rated hotel.

A recent Cornell University study, looking at more than 95,000 reviews and ratings for independent, high-end properties, found that “the key drivers in customer satisfaction remain service and room. Hoteliers should, therefore, focus on the operational areas that speak volumes about service and room, such as appropriately friendly service throughout the property, as well as the quality of beds and ensuring a good night’s sleep for the guest. The traditional lodging service that delivers a good night’s sleep in a clean, well-functioning room, together with availability of an excellent breakfast, remains central to customer satisfaction.”

Room image, hotel brand, star ratings, guest ratings, recently remodel tags, and price are just a few of the key attributes that shoppers use to select hotels. Remodel tags, room image, and star ratings all had lower importance as individual features on the likelihood for selection but can help sway the decision when combined with strong features on other attributes.