Before the Internet, travelers searching for a hotel used to either rely on guidebooks or stick with a big-name chain.

While the advent of Web sites such as Expedia and Travelocity enabled travelers to get price quotes and watch virtual tours of a number of hotels, they still couldn't find out how prompt room service was, how friendly the staff was or if the bathroom towels were extra soft.

Now they can, with increasingly popular consumer review travel sites such as and

So influential are the sites that some independent hotels say as much as 75 percent of their business comes from their referrals.

Large chains take the sites seriously as well, with general managers checking to see how their hotels are perceived in the marketplace and holding meetings to discuss negative reviews.

"If you are reading third-party reviews, you will pay more attention to those than to advertising, an AAA rating or even a travel writer's opinion," said Jerry Morrison, a San Diego hotel industry consultant and analyst.

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