May 14

The Power of Travel Reviews on Culture, Heritage and the Visitor Economy

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May 14, 2024

Since ancient times, storytelling has shaped culture and heritage through various forms, from rock art to fables and songs. From adventure stories to discovering hidden gems, the entrusted gift of travel insights can build into tourism's far-reaching legacy. Learn why your role in this community matters as we delve into the resonant impact of travel reviews and how to share them responsibly. 

Singita Malilangwe house massage on deck

A spectacular experience deserves equally exceptional travel reviews, Image Credit, Singita

The Power of Travel Reviews 

Today, travel community members are encouraged to use their voices and share their experiences through the many available channels of which there is no shortage. From general travel review platforms, restaurant review sites, airline review sites, local experiences platforms, and more, we would do well to remember why we share – to be helpful.

A light lunch at SIlvan Safari in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve

From accommodation and activities to food and wine, share your experiences with others

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Tripadvisor, the world's largest travel platform, was incorporated in February 2000. Claiming to help millions of people travel better, it aims to fulfil its purpose from the discovery to the review stage of the traveller experience. 

With over one billion reviews, the review giant's platform is a NASDAQ-listed company, Tripadvisor, Inc. (Nasdaq: TRIP), scaled to welcome several travel-linked trademarks, evolving from a pure review site.

The annual Tripadvisor Traveler's Choice Awards is a benchmark of traveller-led quality assurance covering categories such as destinations, beaches, hotels, restaurants, and things to do. 

Romantic Beach Dinner on the beach

Travel reviews give a more personal depiction of what to expect, Image Credit: Royal Zanzibar

Consider that review platforms are akin to mirrored rooms in a carnival funhouse. In this place, travellers reflect on their experiences, taken through the lens of their own bias, and transform them into pieces of crowd-sourced information. Some contributions are helpful, characterised by thoughtful commentary on their trip, considering all parties. By contrast, others serve only as a public forum for online trolls to graffiti negative messages on the virtual wall. 

Paying it Forward

Reviews are subjective, based on an individual's life experience at the time, personal preferences, point of view and sometimes, mood. You may resonate with the author's sentiment. Suppose you've read a critique written by a perfect stranger and felt a spark of connection. 

Perhaps you've trodden those trails, and the piece opens the floodgate of memories of a place and time when you were happy. How lovely to receive an unexpected rush of feel-good hormones to brighten your day. 

Review platforms are an excellent place for throwing the spotlight of appreciation on the hardworking, dedicated tourism professionals who go above and beyond to exceed travellers' expectations. 

Silvan Butlers pouring drinks on a game drive.

The staff at safari lodges collectively make your stay as magical as possible

The Darker Side 

Sometimes, though, they allow us to peek inside the belly of the beast, where keyboard warriors thrive in dark places fueled by frustration. Seething customers spew vitriol and vie for the attention of the perceived offenders, hoping for vindication. In some extreme cases, review platforms attract an insidious reviewer, namely the professional complainer. This person knows the law, and their well-researched claims become their livelihood. 

Suppose you pen an upbeat write-up steeped in the positive emotion of your experience that has caught the attention of the tourism provider. By sharing it with their team, the ripples of your appreciation have far-reaching positive effects, inspiring company members to aspire to reach even greater heights in their careers. 

Woman doing yoga on a beach in Seychelles

Stay calm and consider the best way to share your travel reviews, Image Credit: Constance Lemuria

Rant and Rave

Suppose you've made a long-haul trip to visit South Africa, a country in southern Africa with a burgeoning tourism industry. This industry has a relatively low barrier to entry for the labour market's vulnerable groups, namely women and the youth. 

Yet, further down the page of the review platform, another person writes an entirely contradictory account of their experience. How is this possible? It's the same place, yet polar opposite experiences. The only thing that quickens the pulse more than a great review is a poor one.

Before posting a negative, damning report on a public platform, consider the unintended consequences that it may have for the tourism provider, their team and the local visitor economy to which that stakeholder contributes. Is there a better way of handling the complaint? Perhaps contacting the manager to discuss this could yield favourable results for both parties. 

Silvan Safari tracker at work

Travel reviews point other guests in the right direction

The Halo Effect

What's important is how the review makes you feel. Do the words jump off the page, igniting your interest? 

Seeing those five stars on Trustpilot can surprise and delight the travel provider. The review below by Björn Leidl mentions the Travel Expert at Rhino Africa who helped breathe life into a client's experience. 

Dreamy African Honeymoon

"Jan made our honeymoon unforgettable. Already in the planning and the various phone calls we had previously, we felt very comfortable with him. He was always available for any questions during the trip, the hotels were unbeatable, and the planning and his recommendations along the Garden Route were perfect. I recommend everyone who wants to discover the African continent to contact Rhino Africa. Thank you very much, Jan.

Date of experience: 12 February 2024 [SIC]

Our Travel Expert Jan, making African dreams come true

Rhino Africa Travel Expert, Jan

Having lived experience of being a travel consultant once upon a time, I understand the effort, care, and attention to detail required to result in such a rave review. When reading this review through Jan's client's eyes, I connect with his purpose-led work and the halo effect of the traveller's joy. When shared with the stakeholders of this client's trip, doing so creates a virtuous circle of motivation, cultural exchange, and positivity. 

One of Rhino Africa's Senior Consultants, Tara Beckett, shares her viewpoint of how much a client review means.

"It's always good to hear from my clients to understand if I've exceeded their expectations. I invest a lot of passion, energy, and first-hand travel experience into crafting the client's journey. I attended the New York Travel Adventure Show in January, and introducing Africa to potential clients was lovely." [SIC]
Rhino Africa Travel Experts enjoying sundowners on safari

Rhino Africa's Travel Experts experience the continent's magic first-hand before they recommend it to guests

Sharing is Caring

Tourism has the power to have a tangible impact on communities and livelihoods. 

A report produced by the WTTC and the Sustainable Tourism Global Center (STGC) is based on Oxford Economics' methodology to quantify the environmental and social impact of travel and tourism in 185 territories worldwide, addressing youth and female employment.

The report discusses how the travel and tourism sector contributes to the job market for young individuals and female workers and assesses the extent to which the industry provides high-wage jobs. 

The Good Work Foundation graduation ceremony

The Good Work Foundation is one of Rhino Africa's Impact Partners that makes a real difference in communities 

Whether sharing gratitude privately or on a public platform, contributions can shape the appreciation of the tourism industry and its contribution to the worldwide economy. Taking a hyper-local focus, sharing thanks builds self-esteem in the humans who work at these travel providers. Some may be from the local communities who depend on tourism as a source of employment. 

Positive reviews shared on public platforms could attract future visitors, building into the local visitor economy. Eco-tourism businesses rely on word-of-mouth referrals as an essential source of new business that indirectly funds conservation initiatives. 

Travel reviews impact conservation efforts by providing ongoing funding from guests

Your travel reviews have a far-reaching impact, including on conservation efforts, Image Credit: Tswalu Kalahari

Attitude of Gratitude

If you choose to use your voice to shape the future of travel through the ripple effect impact of traveller reviews, consider taking a regenerative approach to your reviews, helping to build back better. 

Anna Pollock deftly explains the lofty concept of regenerative tourism in plain language. As travellers, we all have a responsibility to take positive action. Let's play our part in the future of the interconnected tourism ecosystem. 

The next time you write your thoughts about your experience in a physical or virtual guest book, consider whether it will be helpful to other travellers and if it will regeneratively build up the tourism ecosystem. 

Couple enjoying bubbly next to the pool at Silvan Safari

Show your gratitude to everyone who made your trip possible by writing travel reviews

Write Your Own Travel Reviews

Experience something worth sharing with the world. Rhino Africa's Travel Experts will tailor-make a journey you'll want to write raving reviews about. Reach out today for a personalised quote

Featured Image Credit: Sanctuary Olonana


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About the author 

Amy Knight-Dawson

Amy is a highly experienced figure in the tourism industry with a career spanning 25 years. She is a well-known and respected voice in the field and has authored several travel articles. Amy is passionate about sustainability and prefers to explore the less-travelled paths to seek out unique and unscripted experiences. Her love for nature draws her to coastal destinations, where she finds the raw power of the ocean most invigorating. She was born and raised in South Africa and now lives in the cosmopolitan city of Edinburgh, Scotland. As a member of the African diaspora and guest blogger for Rhino Africa, Amy shares her international insights and travel experiences, showcasing the beauty of the world and inspiring others to explore it.

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