It’s officially a new world for hotel marketing. No longer is price the most important factor in selecting a hotel.  New research from Penn State University shows that guests are more influenced to book, or not book, based on online reviews – not price

Guests are not just looking at online sites for price comparison anymore, but using online review sites such as TripAdvisor to make certain that the hotel reviews match their expectations.  Travelers simply want to know if they are getting the value they deserve for the price.

As TripAdvisors’ user interface can be cumbersome for guests to compare hotels, this new research underscores the importance of reviews in influencing guest buying patterns.

The study revealed that positive reviews are the primary factor in choice – not ratings and rank. Guests said they would trade a lower-priced property for a hotel with better reviews. And interestingly the content or language in the reviews did not matter – only whether reviews were positive or negative.

However, it should be noted that price still matters. As such, hotels need to pay attention to how their reviews compare to competitors when setting a price. Once a negative review is posted, dropping the price has no effect in restoring the dropped bookings.

In order to take this concept one step further, now is the time for hoteliers to build in the right systems that provide consistent, real-time feedback from guests that enhances the brand overall.  The key is to deliver an experience on par, or above, what is reported on sites like TripAdvisors — combined with a high level of personalization to guests in both the social and mobile environments.

Based on NetLink’s research, providing a  “frictionless guest experience” improves reviews and loyalty and will empower guests to interact with hotel brands in customized ways.  In addition, it will fully counter any bad reviews that may come about on the Internet.

Finding new and innovative ways to enhance the guest experience will give your hotel the edge it needs to stay on top of the good reviews and gain new customers.  The good news is that you don’t need to always lower your prices to remain competitive.