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Friends and fellow travelers: comparative influence of review sites and friends on hotel choice

Andrew Duffy (Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology

ISSN: 1757-9880

Article publication date: 17 August 2015




This paper aims to examine when travelers are more influenced by friends (word-of-mouth [WOM]) with limited knowledge of hotels but an understanding of the traveler, and when by review sites (electronic word-of-mouth [eWOM]) which have immense experience of hotels but cannot know the individual traveler. Sites such as TripAdvisor® offer millions of reviews, and travelers often reduce that to a manageable amount by focusing on reviews by writers who show homophily, i.e. are similar to them in terms of travel interests. These sites represent a form of eWOM recommendation; what is not clear is how much they replace or augment traditional WOM.


Dual-method content analysis of semi-structured interviews with a heterogeneous purposive sample of regular users of TripAdvisor (N = 30), followed by a survey of TripAdvisor users (N = 237).


Friends were considered the most credible information source, although friends showing greater homophily were more valued than others. However, in some circumstances, subjects found eWOM more credible: when they wanted greater certainty in their hotel choice, so complete information was important; when the hotel was for a special occasion or special people; and for feelings of empowerment. Most subjects compared all sources rather than relying on one.


This study reminds hotel managers that while eWOM is accessible and analyzable, it may not fully represent guests’ opinions; hotels’ marketing strategy should balance it with other recommendation networks. As guests compare sources, consistency in all forms of customer engagement is also essential.



Duffy, A. (2015), "Friends and fellow travelers: comparative influence of review sites and friends on hotel choice", Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 127-144.



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