News | OnlineVolume of hotel reviews in the US has dropped, while overall guest satisfaction has increasedThis article was originally published onBy Nick Vivion | October 25, 2013 In the United States, the volume of user-generated hotel reviews has dropped, while the average satisfaction of reviewing guests has increased, new analysis shows.The report, released by travel reputation specialists TrustYou, looked at the scope of 250k US-based reviews across the websites monitored as part of the company's reputation management suite.Reputation versus volumeOverall, the reputation of hotels has increased, as the sentiment from user reviews has become more positive in 2013 versus one year ago. The increase has been pretty evenly spread across markets.While the reputation has improved, the total volume of reviews though, has decreased.The report points out that:"Consumer review fatigue may be setting in; however, we caution that this may not tell the entire story of the data. Repeat guests may not feel compelled to review a hotel for each stay or may be more selective about when and which properties they review. The 2012 drive by hoteliers to solicit guest reviews may have plateaued and the new priority of responding to consumer reviews may have taken precedence in 2013. In addition, consumers may be choosing a single favorite review site and avoiding posting multiple reviews per stay."Within this decrease, management responses have been robust - in fact, every single market show large increases, averaging over 50% in increase year-over-year.This could indeed be one of the reasons that reputation scores have increased - responsible management is seen as more trustworthy, and therefore the smaller number of reviews are being responded to more often. These responses also suggest active management to non-reviewers, increasing the overall perception of the individual hotel property.From the report:"The competitive intensity of major hotel markets puts pressure on hotel management to constantly monitor and improve review scores of their hotel portfolios. During the third quarter, the top five TrustScores in the US went to New York (90.5), Orlando (88.98), Chicago (88.12), Houston (87.48), and San Diego (87.38). The markets with the most improved TrustScores, year-over-year, were Tampa-St.Petersburg (+3.6%), New Orleans (+3.2%), and Philadelphia (+2.6%). Good news for besieged Detroit, Michigan with an improved TrustScore for its hotels of 2.5% over the 2012 third quarter."So what drives guest satisfaction?Location, room and food are some of the key drives to increased TrustScore when it comes to the US hotel guest.From the report:"There are winners and losers in the sentiment analysis on price satisfaction but for the majority of markets (14 of the 25) pricing is not a sore spot for consumers relative to last year, suggesting pricing opportunities for many markets."Consumers continue to set a high bar for service, which pushes hoteliers to deliver superior service while still focused on value.Consumer sentiment analysis shows displeasure with inconsistent wireless pricing, and also the obfuscation of the true price of a hotel room:"The confusion about pricing for wireless access as well as the actual cost is a sore spot for many travelers perhaps more so for the leisure guest who may travel less frequently. A recent survey of 650 travel agents by TravelClick reported that free internet (79%) is a top priority to driving agency bookings. Most consumers do not comprehend why every Starbucks or McDonald’s in the US offer free Wi-Fi but it costs them over $13 per day when staying in a US hotel with an average room rate of over $112.00 as projected by Smith Travel."Review sourcesTripAdvisor remained the biggest player in terms of volume, as they accounted for 42% of all reviews written about hotels. Additionally, TripAdvisor was the only site that saw large percentage gains across all major US markets.Booking.com and Priceline showed some growth, hosting 16% and 6% of all reviews written, respectively. The other major players saw serious declines, with Hotels.com and Expedia posting double digit declines in volume of reviews across most US markets.Google+ continues to post disappointing results as far as hotel review volume, after seeing a surge related to the launch of Google+ local last year.These statistics bode well for TripAdvisor, as they push into TripConnect and other alternative ways to book hotels via their mobile and desktop offerings. Despite these stats, the company insists that it remains satisfied with the media model and will not become an OTA.TripAdvisor's dominance"as a review source is not unexpected. Drops in the number of reviews in other key hotel distribution channels may be driven by a number of factors including hoteliers’ focus on driving reservations through brand.com, changes in the distribution revenue models, and seasonal booking trends. Additional market by market analysis by distribution channel is warranted."Google+, however, could offer up opportunities to hotels active on this platform to see higher organic rankings in the new Google Carousel product, in addition to search results.Drop in top-tier reviewsThe report also found that there was a drop in the number of stays reviews as "5-star." This happened all markets and regions when compared to last year:"As consumers continue to read and trust the reviews of fellow travelers, they may likely adjust their expectations and in choosing a highly rated hotel that adjustment may be upwards. This creates greater demands on hotel management to exceed expectations, to delight and surprise guests, and to differentiate their product and service delivery on what are increasingly high traveler expectations."The full report can be reviewed here.NB: Happy people image courtesy Shutterstock.