Over the past two decades, the Internet has transformed how hotel rooms are bought and sold. Before the Web, customers typically contacted the hotel directly for information, or relied on travel agents, tour operators or other intermediaries to suggest properties that might be appropriate. However, challenges occurred because of both knowledge and impartiality. Even the best intermediary could not be aware of all options, and thus their recommendations were naturally limited by their knowledge of a destination. Impartiality was a bigger challenge. Intermediaries tended to be commercially motivated, leading many to question whether their recommendations were a genuine match with client needs or were given as a result of payments made for business delivered. The growth of the Web in the late 1990s added greatly to the quantity of information available to consumers. Instead of going through a professional, customers could search for information on travel options for themselves. However, despite this newfound access to vast amounts of information, the challenge of credibility remained. On the web, most travel information originated from one of two sources – either directly with suppliers or as editorial on a travel website. In either case, the base information also usually originated with the supplier, thus making it biased towards the supplier in question. To read many websites, every travel experience is unadulterated hedonism – a sharp contrast to the reality of today’s overcrowded, under- delivering travel environment. Social media, however, potentially help address this credibility issue. Since travelers enjoy talking about their experiences, discussing future plans and seeking the recommendations of others, social media sites such as blogs, social networks and review sites have become important information resources. Such sites provide consumers with easy access to a pool of high-quality, topical and most importantly, unbiased information, generated not by commercial interests but by other consumers, thus helping to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the aforementioned credibility issue. As a result, social media have had an almost immediate and dramatic effect on how travel is researched, planned and bought. Most commentators agree that social media now act as a key element in the traveler’s research process. Get the full story at Hotel Yearbook 2012 (PDF 1.1 MB)