An Analysis of Online Reviews by Language Groups: The Case of Hotels in Porto, Portugal

By Pacheco, Luís | European Journal of Tourism Research, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

An Analysis of Online Reviews by Language Groups: The Case of Hotels in Porto, Portugal


Pacheco, Luís, European Journal of Tourism Research


Introduction

Online reviews, ratings or opinions, as part of the Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) phenomenon, have gained importance with the emergence of new technology and tools. Litvin et al. (2008) define eWOM as "all informal communications directed at consumers through Internet-based technology related to the usage or characteristics of particular goods and services, or their sellers". As stated by Cantallops and Salvi (2014, p. 41), the main differences between WOM and eWOM can be identified in the reach of the reviews' impact (number of people who can be influenced) and the speed of interaction (Litvin et al., 2008; Cox et al., 2009).

Portugal stands at 15th out of 141 countries in the "Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2015" (TTCI, 2016) and particularly the city of Porto, located in the North of Portugal, has become a success story in terms of a travel destination in the past decade. In recent years the city has been selected as the "Best European destination" and one of the most romantic and traditional cities in Europe by several specialized travel publications and sites. The number of tourists and hotel stays has been steadily increasing, as well as the number of hotels and available beds amidst a surge of urban rehabilitation of Porto's "World Heritage" historical center. Data for the entire northern region of Portugal show that in 2014 the region attracted more than two and a half million stays in hotels, 55% of them from foreigners (mostly from Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Brazil).

The objective of this paper is to study the relationship between online hotel reviews and the language used in those reviews, testing whether five different nationalities tend to have significantly different hotel ratings. The data were obtained from a large online travel platform, TripAdvisor, where more than 160 new contributions are posted every minute (URL: www.tripadvisor.com). The analysis and comparison of opinions of different language groups is completely new in the Portuguese context and we expect that our results highlight some differences between language groups, providing insights for hotel managers' efforts in terms of customer satisfaction.

The next section presents a literature review and the subsequent sections present the data and methodology and the results. The fifth section presents a discussion of the results and the paper ends with some concluding remarks.

Literature review

Distinct cultural backgrounds lead to different consumption concepts, perceived satisfaction and ratings (Ayoun and Moreo, 2008; Chen et al., 2012). In this paper we aim to investigate whether travelers from different cultural backgrounds, which are proxied in terms of spoken languages, rate hotels significantly different. There are several studies that focus on the relationship of these cultural factors with hotel satisfaction (Huang et al., 1996; Tse and Ho, 2009; Hsieh and Tsai, 2009, among others or Schuckert et al., 2014, for a literature review).The majority of studies use only a few hotels and a few hundred respondents obtained through questionnaires whereas our study uses secondary data obtained from a large set of reviews for all the star-rated hotels in the Porto area, analyzing 2150 customer ratings.

Web 2.0 technologies have changed the ways users search and share information, offering new ways of communication that enable users to share their opinions with all other users in an efficient, instantaneous platform and without time or geographical limitations. The influence of eWOM is directly applicable to tourism and hospitality, since user-generated reviews are an important source of information for prospective travelers searching for independent evaluations. Indeed, its influence is particularly high for experience goods such as in the hospitality and tourism context, because quality is only perceived after consumption, (Ye et al., 2009; Lopes et al., 2014). Additionally, people tend to trust information more when it comes directly from other consumers, supposedly helping them to avoid inadequate choices (Stringam et al. …

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