With the advent of the Internet and subsequent promotional campaigns on the World Wide Web, the usage of Internet as a source of promotion for the tourism industry was inevitable (Law, Qi & Buhalis, 2010). As the Internet is gaining popularity in terms of bridging distances between people and the information they share, it is essential for tourists to be provided with a portal where they can share their own experiences with the world. Thus, Internet provides a valuable source for the tourism industry to promote the facilities it offers online, as well as to gather valuable customer feedback, which may help them improve, or make changes as per the requirements of the tourists.
Initially, the mode of communication that took place was through travel agents, as interpersonal communication provided people with greater assurance and reliability (Sheaf, Engage and Huller, 2004). However, as times progressed, web-based marketing gradually began replacing travel agents, and interaction between the customer and travel agents became web-based with websites such as Expedia.com and Priceline.com surfacing (O’Connor, 2010). These websites offer custom-based packages to people and thus the need for travel agents has significantly reduced. Moreover, the fare and commissions formerly distributed to travel agents by airlines have minimized due to the nature of bookings made by travel agent websites (Yeung & Law, 2005), as has the reliability on the opinion of one person’s opinion as compared to hundreds of customer generated reviews (Ong, 2012).
The recent development in online communities and web based virtual reviews have increased the number of people who use websites such as Trip Advisor.com, Yelp.com, Chowhound.com Priceline.comand forecast in order to look up information on the places they desire to visit and make subsequent bookings (Law & Cheung, 2006). As years have progressed, this trend of reviewing has improved with additional details and posting pictures, links etcetera. This thesis therefore explores the effects such reviews have on potential tourists.