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Four ways content moderation can build trust for travel and hospitality brands

Posted September 27, 2023
Airplane leaving a trail of five stars, meant to symbolize positive customer experiences in the travel and hospitality industry

Online research is a cornerstone of the modern travel experience. From TikTok reels to Google Reviews, you would be hard-pressed to find a customer who hasn't combed the internet for inspiration before booking a flight or making a hotel reservation.

According to Expedia's report, The Path To Purchase, travelers view 141 pages of travel content in the 45 days prior to booking a trip on average. The same report also revealed that "page views span content across various website categories, with online travel agencies accounting for nearly half of these page views (67 pages), followed by airline websites (33 pages), hotel websites (16 pages) and meta travel websites (16 pages)."

With travelers spending an extensive amount of time both creating and consuming online content, it is more important than ever for travel and hospitality brands to ensure their customers are receiving accurate information. A robust content moderation strategy is key to establishing trust with guests well before arrival — and maintaining it long past departure.

The growth of user-generated travel content

If you traveled to Rome and didn't post an Instagram picture of a coin being tossed into the Trevi Fountain, did it even really happen? Travelers today are producing online user-generated content (UGC) at exuberant rates, and with this behavior has come the steady decline of published travel guides in favor of travel hashtags.

This new avenue to connect directly with consumers is an exciting business opportunity, providing brands with authentic fresh content that can be used in marketing, personalized customer service and enhanced user interfaces. In fact, travel marketing company Phocuswright conducted a survey of more than 1,000 travelers and found that 72% of travelers are more likely to book a hotel after seeing UGC, while 63% of travelers say they've booked a hotel based on a photo they saw on social media.

On the flip side, however, a survey by TELUS International found that more than 40% of respondents said they would disengage from a brand's community after as little as one exposure to fake UGC, while 45% said they would lose all trust in a brand.

The stakes are high when it comes to user-generated content. Fortunately, with the right content moderation processes in place, you'll be able to protect your brand and enhance the overall customer experience

Four ways content moderation can improve the user experience for travel and hospitality guests

In crafting a comprehensive content moderation strategy, certain focal points emerge as crucial considerations. The following are four critical opportunities for travel brands to integrate content moderation into their operations.

1. Validating online reviews

Travelers rely heavily on reviews to make informed decisions about their trips and accommodations. According to a survey by TripAdvisor, "Traveler reviews remain a go-to source of information, with 72% of respondents always or frequently reading reviews before making a decision on places to stay and eat, or things to do. The figure is even higher when it comes to accommodation bookings, with four out of five participating travelers (81%) always or frequently reading reviews before booking a place to stay."

Verified and legitimate reviews help maintain a positive image, while fraudulent or biased reviews can tarnish a brand's reputation. For travelers, it can often be hard to tell the difference between a legitimate review and a fake one. Having a robust content moderation strategy in place to identify and combat fake reviews ensures travelers receive accurate information, enables them to plan their trips with confidence and preserves the integrity of the review system.

2. Combating fraud

While the digital transformation of the travel and hospitality industry created new and convenient ways for brands to do business with consumers, it also created new opportunities for bad actors to exploit these channels for their gain. According to Autohost, an online booking verification provider, globally, the hospitality industry generates an estimated $3 trillion of revenue per year. And according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, between 5-6% of this annual revenue is lost to fraud. That amounts to $150 billion in direct loss of revenue.

But monetary losses aren't the only risks associated with fraudulent activity in the travel and hospitality sector. A travel brand's reputation hinges on the trust and credibility it establishes with travelers and guests. If fraudulent activities are allowed to proliferate unchecked, it erodes trust and damages the brand's reputation as customers become wary of engaging with a potentially untrustworthy entity. Fake listings for accommodations, tours and travel packages, phishing scams and too-good-to-be-true discounts are all examples of fraudulent activities that could tarnish a brand's reputation. Having the right technology, along with a team of expert moderators, can help assess content for inconsistencies, duplicate information or suspicious details, reducing the chance that travelers will fall victim to fraudulent offers.

3. Profile moderation

Validating that a profile of a user set up online is authentic is vital to creating vibrant digital communities. Fraudsters may create fake online profiles to write misleading reviews, share inappropriate content or in an attempt to scam other users.

It is up to brands to take profile moderation seriously. Verification processes using artificial intelligence-enabled technology can be implemented to ensure the identity of users posting listings or advertisements. For example, checks can be completed to verify that user information matches official records by requesting that new users submit copies of government identification and an additional photo when creating a profile to reduce the risk of impersonation.

4. Upholding community guidelines

Online travel forums and marketplaces have become a popular location for travelers to share their reviews, recommendations, travel stories and more. While these communities provide great outlets for travelers to come together to engage with fellow members who have similar travel preferences and experiences, it is essential that the UGC posted in these forums adheres to the community guidelines set. Inappropriate images or language can quickly turn a constructive and helpful conversation into a toxic environment, negatively impacting user experiences.

Strategies for content moderation in travel and hospitality

Between review sites, social media communities, online forums, blog posts and videos, there's a significant amount of UGC to sort through. Fortunately, brands are able to turn to technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), to support at scale.

Technology can be leveraged for content moderation in various ways, including, but not limited to:

  • Automated filtering: Algorithms are used to detect and flag potentially spammy or inappropriate content in real-time, helping brands quickly identify and address problematic content before it becomes visible to users.
  • Real-time alerts: To enable brands to take immediate action against concerning UGC, real-time alerts can be set up to notify moderators.
  • Keyword detection: Specific keywords or phrases that might be indicative of inappropriate content are identified and used to flag potential issues for human review.
  • Sentiment analysis: Tools can be leveraged to assess the emotional tone of UGC. This helps identify positive and negative sentiments, enabling brands to respond appropriately to customer feedback.
  • User-behavior analysis: User behavior patterns can be analyzed to identify suspicious or fraudulent activity. Unusual posting frequency, duplicate content or rapid changes in profile details can be indicators of potentially harmful behavior.
  • Content queues: Technology can be utilized to organize and prioritize content for human moderation, streamlining the workflow for moderators and ensuring that potentially problematic content is addressed promptly.

While technology plays an important role in content moderation, it's not enough by itself. A robust content moderation strategy should implement a human-in-the-loop approach where technology is combined with human judgment.

Brands operating in the travel and hospitality marketplace face unique challenges compared to brands that may not be catering to such a global audience. Not only do travel brands need to have a geographic strategy for their content moderation operations, but they need to have the ability to moderate UGC in multiple languages and have the capabilities to keep social and cultural nuances in mind when doing so. For example, a phrase shared online might be innocuous in one country, but mean something entirely different in another. Human moderators have an unparalleled ability to identify content violations in the context of culture, current events and brand regulations and they outperform AI in identifying the emotion and intent behind digital content.

Wandersafe, wandersecure

Crafting an effective content moderation strategy that tackles the aforementioned challenges can indeed be a complex endeavor for brands. However, leveraging the expertise of a qualified trust and safety partner that understands the intricacies of content moderation, has a global presence and a team of tenured, multilingual content moderators can empower brands to start their content moderation journey off on the right foot. Contact our experts to discuss how we can help your brand's content moderation operations take off.

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