The internet has fundamentally changed the way we plan trips, book hotels, and experience destinations. One of the most influential developments has been the rise of online review platforms that allow travelers to read about hotels, restaurants, attractions and more through the lens of other globetrotters. These crowdsourced review sites have democratized the feedback process, providing a wealth of perspectives beyond just professional critics. For better or worse, online reviews now play a significant role in travel planning and impressions. This article will provide an in-depth exploration of the review roamers populating these global online feedback forums. We’ll learn about the origins of crowd-sourced travel reviews, motivations of prolific reviewers, and the impact reviews have on the industry.
The Rise of Review Roamers
The concept of seeking fellow travelers' opinions certainly predates the internet. Word-of-mouth has long influenced vacation itineraries and hotel selections. However, the emergence of web-based review platforms allowed these conversations to occur at a much broader scale amongst strangers. Moving chronologically, here are some of the key developments that set the stage for today's review roamers:
Early Online Travel Forums
In the 1990s, the earliest online travel forums emerged, such as Usenet's rec.travel newsgroup. These allowed travelers to pose questions to broader audiences and receive tips from fellow adventurers. While informal, these early communities revealed the demand for shared travel experiences online.
Review Collection Websites
Dedicated review websites soon formalized the crowdsourced feedback model. Sites like TripAdvisor, which launched in 2000, aggregated hotel reviews from travelers. Features like rating systems, reviewer profiles and photos made reviews more prominent. This allowed regular travelers to share opinions with global audiences.
Rise of the Influencer
The 2000s saw the emergence of travel bloggers who attracted devoted audiences. These early influencers combined informative reviews with travel narratives and photography, carving out a profession from online content creation. They paved the way for today's travel influencers and review collectors.
Today, reviews are virtually everywhere, from booking platforms like Expedia to activity vendors like GetYourGuide. User-generated content is now a cornerstone of trip planning. Search any hotel and you’ll likely find hundreds if not thousands of reviews. This saturation means everyone can find reviews, but standing out is now harder for prolific reviewers.
Who are Review Roamers?
So who exactly are these review roamers populating today's travel websites and blogs? Based on surveys and data analysis, some common traits have emerged:
Review roamers span ages and backgrounds, but the majority are older millennials and gen Xers. TripAdvisor’s reviewer community trends slightly female at 60%. Educational and income levels tend to be high amongst top contributors.
These reviewers travel often, with 50 nights/year being average for TripAdvisor’s top 1,000 reviewers. Some log hundreds of nights annually. Frequent travel gives them more opportunities to review lodging, dining and activities.
There are both personal and social motivations. On the personal side, many enjoy reminiscing on trips and appreciate having a searchable journal. Socially, they like feeling part of a travel community and helping fellow travelers. There’s often a sense of responsibility tied to their prolific review output.
These avid reviewers tend to be quite outgoing and comfortable voicing opinions. They’re detail-oriented and enjoy writing comprehensive reviews. There’s often a hint of extroversion tied to their public sharing. Some also mention perfectionist tendencies.
Spotlight on Super Reviewers
To better understand these dedicated voices, here are profiles of two super-reviewers within the TripAdvisor community:
Gogomom from California
With over 1,700 reviews and 2.5 million readers, Gogomom is a TripAdvisor all-star. The Bay Area native focuses mostly on California attractions and restaurants. She shared that reviewing helps her relive happy memories and provides an outlet for things she’s passionate about. Her detailed reviews and photos aim to help fellow travelers make informed decisions.
MarkY from Sydney
This Australian reviewer has contributed over 3,500 reviews and 10,000 photos to TripAdvisor. He explained reviews help him record memorable experiences and connect with like-minded travelers. His most popular include luxury hotels in Singapore and restaurants in Vietnam. MarkY notes reviews have pushed him to try new places in order to provide helpful recommendations.
The Impact of Reviews
It’s clear these dedicated voices invest substantial time into crafting reviews. But what exactly is the impact of all this user-generated content? Here are some of the key effects, both positive and negative.
For many, reviews provide vacation inspiration and ideas. Vivid reviews and photos allow travelers to preview destinations and experiences, fueling their wanderlust. This can open travelers to new places they weren’t previously considering.
Perceived Risk Reduction
Reviews help reduce the perceived risk and uncertainty tied to travel purchases like accommodations and tours. Confidence goes up when a property has hundreds of 4-5 star reviews confirming quality. This is especially true when booking overseas or off the beaten path.
Some businesses feel pressure to maintain stellar reviews rather than focusing on customer satisfaction. This can lead to soliciting only positive reviews or offering incentives that compromise authenticity. However, most major platforms now have policies banning manipulative tactics.
The overwhelming volume of reviews today can lead to fatigue for consumers. Sifting through hundreds of opinions to make a decision takes considerable time and effort. And with so many reviews, it can be hard to identify truly unique or authoritative perspectives.
There is also the risk that reviews become an echo chamber or feedback loop. For example, a few negative reviews on a hotel can trigger more negative reviews, even if the issues are not representative. Similarly, positive momentum tends to breed more praise. Moderating this bias can be challenging.
Frequently Asked Questions
What percentage of travelers read online reviews when planning trips?
According to TripAdvisor, 98% of travelers read online reviews before making hotel selections. Reviews have become central to the hotel research and booking process for most travelers today.
How many reviews does the average TripAdvisor user contribute?
Among TripAdvisor’s community of reviewers, the average user contributes about 4 reviews per year. However, there is a dedicated cohort who contribute far more - in the hundreds annually. These prolific reviewers account for a sizable percentage of reviews.
Is there a lot of fraud or fake reviews on crowd-sourced review platforms?
Major sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google take a number of steps to moderate fake reviews, including tracking IP addresses and monitoring sudden spikes. Estimates suggest fake reviews make up no more than 5% of total reviews on reputable platforms today.
Should I avoid places with any negative reviews?
No - it's perfectly normal for even quality hotels and restaurants to have some negative reviews mixed into mostly positive feedback. Look for patterns in the low reviews and make judgement calls while keeping an open mind. Places cannot please every traveler.
How important are professional critic reviews vs. crowd-sourced reviews?
It depends on the traveler - some still highly value seasoned critic reviews available via guidebooks, newspapers, or critic sites. But for many today, crowd-sourced reviews feel more democratic and authentic. Most travelers likely balance both critic wisdom along with fellow traveler perspectives.
In the span of just 20 years, crowd-sourced online reviews have radically transformed how travelers research, evaluate and select hotels, restaurants, attractions and more. What was once a conversation at the concierge desk is now a global dialogue amongst strangers online. At the heart of this worldwide web of feedback are review roamers - travelers who voluntarily invest substantial time into crafting reviews based on their experiences. Driven by a mix of personal fulfillment and altruism, prolific reviewers have made their mark on the industry. Their contributions help inspire new adventures, reduce risk in decision making, and hold businesses accountable. While review saturation has its downsides, the democratization of feedback remains a defining feature of modern travel. The journey continues as new innovations emerge, but review roamers show no signs of slowing their quest to document global experiences.