New research from Plum Guide, reveals 1 in 3 of us refuse to book a holiday without reading online reviews, yet 21% of Britons have been seriously let down by a holiday because of them.
Increased anticipation around holidays in 2022 and the end of Covid test requirements for travel has sparked a holiday boom, resulting in a booking increase of 53% on ‘Sunshine Saturday’*.
With each Briton planning on spending an average of £800 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 travellers, including 2,000 British holidaymakers, 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 77% said customer reviews are important or essential when researching or booking a holiday despite three-quarters of people (7 in 10) having previously experienced emotional upset or stress on holiday through misplaced trust in them.
Concerningly 40% of Brits would describe themselves as ‘obsessed’ with reading reviews, with 1 in 3 stating they would feel ‘emotionally distressed’ if they were to book a major holiday without reading any reviews first and a quarter (24%) of Brits believing they would suffer from sleepless nights if they couldn’t access them.
From reliance to obsession:
With Brits planning to spend £2,844 on holidays in 2022, £800 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.
“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 emphasise the absurdity of taking an anonymous person’s opinion as gospel, the homestay company projected real 1-star reviews onto landmarks of cultural or historical importance in London and New York.
Demonstrating that even the Tate Modern, Tower of London and the National Gallery aren’t safe from scorn and misleading comments. 1-star reviews range from ‘Misnamed, should be called Tat modern’ and ‘No heads on spikes. 0/10’, to ‘They have no Marilyn Monroe postcards and their fridge magnets cost too much.”
The eye-catching projections hope to encourage travellers 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:
- 64% of Brits believe customer reviews are generally correct and accurate when booking a holiday, despite 1 in 5 being let down by a holiday because of a misleading customer review
- 3 out of 5 Brits said they trust customer reviews, but 3 in 4 agree there needs to be a more trustworthy and accurate system than just customer reviews when booking a holiday
- Half of Brits find the choice and research required when booking a holiday overwhelming and stressful
- When booking a holiday, Brits need to read an average of 14 reviews to feel comfortable booking anything, with more than 1 in 10 (12%) needing to read up to 30 reviews.
The Long Live The Critic projections took place in London and New York at these locations:
- Tate Modern
Tower of London
Royal Festival Hall
- Guggenheim Museum
The High Line
Note: The projections took place on 24th January 2022.