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Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks & Traveler Reviews
Report | Published: September 2012

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  • Summary
  • Contents
  • Methodology

Publication Summary

Advances in technology and increasingly sophisticated social platforms have made it easier than ever for today's travelers to engage online. From posting travel reviews to interacting with travel brands online and sharing trip experiences through their favorite online networks, travelers are making the most of social media. Now an integral part of the online travel ecosystem, consumers are not just participating, but are actively shaping the travel search, shop, buy and share experience. Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks & Traveler Reviews examines the role and impact of social media and user-generated content on the online travel landscape. Created in partnership with Circos Brand Karma and Travelport, this report explores how both travelers and travel companies are leveraging this powerful medium, and highlights the implications for the industry in the years ahead. Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks & Traveler Reviews includes:

  • Influence of online social features on travelers
  • Role and impact of social networks in travel planning and shopping, including referrals and bookings
  • Analysis and examples of how travel companies leverage social platforms for branding activities, transactions and customer support
  • Detailed analysis of nearly 4.5 million traveler reviews posted on social travel websites and OTAs from 2008-2011, representing approximately 25,000 U.S. properties of 65 leading hotel brands. Discussion includes:
    • Volume and share of traveler reviews posted on traveler review websites and OTAs from 2008-2011
    • Sentiment of online traveler reviews through semantic analysis with Circos Brand Karma
    • Phocuswright's "Buzz" benchmark, which gauges hotels' social travel performance in terms of review volume and activity by hotel star rating
    • Social Travel Advocacy Index (STAI), which tracks traveler sentiment over time and monitors travelers' satisfaction with a particular hotel or brand
Along with millions of other consumers, online travelers have fully embraced social media, and the way they search, shop and buy travel will never be the same. Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel 2012: Social Networks & Traveler Reviews gives travel companies the know-how they need to stay competitive and meet the expectations of today's travelers. Not sure this is the report for you? Contact our experts to find the research that fits your needs. +1 860 350-4084 x501

Table of Contents

34 Pages

Section 1 – Introduction & Methodology
Key Findings
- Traveler Review Volume & Buzz
- Review Sentiment
- Traveler Review Data Methodology
- Hotel Star Rating Classification by Brand
- Benchmark Indices: Buzz and STAI

Section 2 – Social Media in Travel 2012
Branding & Buzz: Medium or Message?
Customer Care: Social for Service
Mining the Open Graph
Social Travel Startups: Are We There Yet?
Social Commerce: Show Me the Money
Mobile Has Yet To Get Social

Section 3 – Traveler Reviews: Activity
Online Travel Agencies vs. Traveler Review Websites
Hotel Buzz: Review Volume by Star Classification

Section 4 – Traveler Reviews: Sentiment
STAI (Social Travel Advocacy Index) by Star Classification


Online Features Used During Travel Shopping

Facebook and Social Networks Category Share of Upstream Site Visits Before Visiting PhoCusWright Online Travel Categories, July 2010 and July 2012

Social Media Activities, General and Traveler-Related

Share of All Visits to the Social Travel Category, July 2012

Total Volume of Hotel Reviews (000s) and Room Demand (M), 2008-2011

Share of Online Reviews by OTAs and Traveler Review Sites, 2008-2011

Share of Visits to the 10 Largest Websites in the Traveler Review Category, July 2012

Growth in Volume of Posted Hotel Reviews, 2009-2011

Comparative Share of Hotel Rooms and Reviews by Star Classification, 2011

Average Monthly Buzz by Hotel Star Classification, 2009-2011

Highest and Lowest Buzz by Star Classification, 2011

Monthly Social Travel Advocacy Index (STAI) and Average Daily Rate (ADR), 2010-2011

Aggregate STAI Score by Hotel Star Classification, 2010-2011

Highest and Lowest STAI by Star Classification, 2011


Phocuswright's Social Media in Travel 2012 leverages consumer survey data from Phocuswright's Consumer Travel Report Fourth Edition (May 2012), Phocuswright's Traveler Technology Survey 2011 (November 2011) and online traffic data from Experian Hitwise. Phocuswright also conducted a series of interviews with executives across online travel intermediaries and suppliers on their companies' social media strategies and activities. Phocuswright partnered with Circos Brand Karma to analyze traveler reviews posted on TripAdvisor and leading OTAs using Circos' proprietary technology for measuring review volume and semantic analysis. Traveler Review Data Methodology Phocuswright and Circos Brand Karma analyzed nearly 4.5 million traveler reviews posted by travelers on social travel websites and OTAs from 2008-2011. Each review is tied to a specific hotel brand and property in the U.S. Circos Brand Karma cross-referenced each individual review to a specific U.S. hotel property and brand against a hotel property list provided by Travelport. The nearly 4.5 million reviews represent approximately 25,000 U.S. properties of 63 leading hotel brands. Circos Brand Karma interprets how consumers perceive brands by analyzing brand sentiments on travel review sites, OTAs, discussion forums and influential blogs. Circos Brand Karma applies text analysis and natural language processing to examine all statements within a hotel review to determine what product or service is being discussed and whether the guest's sentiment toward that product or service is positive, negative or neutral. The technology can detect subtle differences in expression. For example, a comment describing the hotel's breakfast buffet as "delicious" is scored more favorably than one describing it as "pretty good." Circos Brand Karma combines these scores to calculate a review's overall quality score. This result is mapped to an index of -100 to +100. Hotel Star Rating Classification by Brand Properties included in the analysis of traveler-generated reviews spanned all hotel classes, from one-star through five-star, as well as extended-stay properties. There is no star rating classification system applied at the hotel brand level that has been widely adopted by the travel industry. Phocuswright adopted the one- to five-star classification model of the major OTAs, with one-star properties as budget/economy and five-star as luxury. For each brand, Phocuswright conducted comparable searches across 10 major and secondary cities in the U.S. on five OTAs (Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline and Travelocity), and averaged the star ratings for all properties across each OTA website. Brands with OTA star rating averages that fell in the middle of two rates (e.g., 2.5) were assigned to the lower category. Extended-stay and suite brands were given their own category: "extended stay." Phocuswright also took into account the number of rooms to compensate for significant variations in the average number of rrooms per property across different hotel brands. Phocuswright estimated an average number of rooms per property per brand based on 2011 property and room data from Hotel Business and Lodging Hospitality, as well as data from hotel companies directly. Benchmark Indices: Buzz and STAI Buzz: The "buzz" metric represents the number of reviews/mentions for a hotel brand. It provides an index of activity or volume, but not of sentiment. In other words, while activity may be positive, negative or neutral, the volume of activity is itself important, regardless of sentiment quality. This report defines "buzz" as the number of reviews per month for every 100 rooms of the hotel brand, so as to account for brands with more properties or with a higher average number of rooms per property. Social Travel Advocacy Index (STAI): Phocuswright developed an index to track overall traveler sentiment across all reviews, based on the Net Quality Score generated by Circos Brand Karma. Based on the Net Promoter methodology, Net Quality Score is calculated by subtracting the number of negative reviews from the number of positive reviews and dividing by the total (including neutral reviews). STAI represents the average monthly Net Quality Score for the hotel brand and star rating category. STAI is weighted to take into account the share of total hotel review volume of the brand and star category. For example, if Brand A, a three-star hotel brand, has an STAI of 20 with 1,000 reviews and Brand B, also a three-star brand, has an STAI of 40 but only 500 reviews, then the STAI score for the three-star category would place more weight on Brand A because it has more reviews.