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Our Research into Why the Online Review System is Broken

We checked in with global travellers to better understand society's concerning relationship with online reviews

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At Plum Guide, we're taking an expert-led approach to travel

As part of our Long Live the Critic! campaign, we conducted a survey of 4,000 global travellers across the UK and the US to learn more about the way they plan their trips, as well as to better understand our worrying relationship with the online review system.

We can't say the results of the study surprised us. After all, Plum Guide exists to solve the very problems we're seeing. What the results did, however, was enhance our belief that the online review system is broken and that a new, expert-led approach to decision-making is needed. Especially when it comes to decisions as important as those around travelling.

Here, we've pulled out a few of the key findings from both traveller groups...

Firstly, we looked at spending behaviours across both groups and how they're likely to change from 2021 to 2022. Last year, Brito​​ns spent an average of £2,070.13 on holidays and trips away but going into 2022, UK travellers are planning on spending 37% more on holidays (£773.79 more than 2021, amounting to £2,843.92 in total). Americans spent an average of $4,524 on holidays and trips away in 2021, but in 2022 Americans are planning to spend 7% more on travel, which is a $325.44 increase on last year.

The predicted increase in spend on a holiday across surveyed travellers

The predicted increase in spend on a holiday across surveyed travellers

With both groups anticipated to spend more on holidays this year, this concerned us. Why exactly? Because alongside this, our reliance on online reviews is also on the rise. Take a closer look below at the insight we gained into our dangerous relationship with then online review system...

A closer look at UK travellers:

1 in 3 (32%) of those we surveyed revealed they would refuse to book a holiday if they could not read any customer reviews beforehand. 2 in 5 (40%) would go as far as describing themselves as being obsessed with reading reviews when planning a holiday.

Although 1 in 5 (21%) of UK travellers have been let down by a holiday due to a misleading online review, surprisingly, 3 in 5 (63%) trust reviews as much as they used to after this. Combined, these statistics show the extent of the nation’s unhealthy obsession with reviews.

After being let down by a holiday due to a misleading online review, a substantial 7 in 10 (68%) had arguments or suffered from stress and tension with those they were holidaying with. No surprises then, that 73% agree that there needs to be a more trustworthy and accurate system than just customer reviews when booking a holiday.

For a large number of UK and US travellers, arguments and tension are the unfortunate results of being let down by an unreliable online review

For a large number of UK and US travellers, arguments and tension are the unfortunate results of being let down by an unreliable online review

A closer look at US travellers:

Over half of Americans (53%) would refuse to book a holiday if they couldn't read any customer reviews beforehand. More alarmingly, 67% would describe themselves as being obsessed with reading reviews when planning a holiday. Adding to this, almost half of Americans would be emotionally distressed it they were to book a major holiday without reading any reviews first. 1 in 3 (34%) would actually suffer from sleepless nights.

Despite this obsession with checking online reviews, almost half (46%) have been let down by a holiday due to a misleading online review. Similarly to the UK, nearly 3 in 4 (72%) trust reviews as much as they used to after this, again showing the extent of the nation’s unhealthy relationship with reviews.

An overview of global travellers' concerning relationship with the online review system

An overview of global travellers' concerning relationship with the online review system

3 in 4 (75%) had arguments or suffered from stress and tension with those they were holidaying with after being let down by a holiday due to a misleading online review. 4 in 5 US travellers (81%) agree that there needs to be a more trustworthy and accurate system than just customer reviews when booking a holiday.

Find out more about our Long Live the Critic! campaign – including our dramatic one-star stunt across London and New York – here.

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