Compete, Inc. today announced findings from its latest study, "Consumer Generated Content in Travel", which finds that a majority of consumers support a brand responding to consumer generated reviews. Travelers are increasingly turning to their peers as a valued research source and encourage travel marketers to join them in this dialogue. Compete examined consumer generated initiatives from Sheraton Hotels, TripAdvisor and Southwest Airlines to help travel marketers understand how to balance creating exposure with maintaining control of the conversation.

Compete estimates that consumer generated content (CGC) influences over $10 billion a year in online travel. With consumers finding CGC more credible than they do professional reviews or information from travel companies, CGC has emerged as a critical source of travel information.

Additional key findings include:

Sheraton Hotels - Integration into eCommerce Platform: In late 2006, Sheraton transformed its website into a social platform, a "Global Neighborhood" for travelers. Compete's analysis revealed: Value to Consumers: 50% of Sheraton shoppers who remember seeing the social functionality reported it as being valuable to their experience; increased conversion: Integration of CGC tools is tied to eCommerce performance, with 57% reporting it having a positive influence on likelihood to book

Southwest Airlines - Mini sites, Events & Promotions: The Southwest "Wanna Get Away Sweepstakes" micro-site used consumer generated videos to create a viral buzz and engage consumers in its marketing campaign. Compete found: Strong Awareness: 20% of visitors claimed recall/awareness of the "Wanna Get Away" promotion; Enhanced Image: Southwest shoppers give the company high marks for an innovative marketing approach and encourage these types of marketing efforts

TripAdvisor - Brand management on third party sites: As the leading destination for consumer-generated travel reviews, TripAdvisor illustrates the opportunity for brands to respond directly to consumers. The study showed: Importance of Peers in Research: Peer opinions are highly valued, 82% prefer consumer reviews over a hotel's description of itself; Acceptance of Brand Involvement: 58% say a supplier responding on TripAdvisor would put them in a favorable light

"Consumers want brands to have a role in their conversation," said Gregory Saks, director of Compete's Travel Practice. "If brands remain genuine and transparent in their CGC strategies, travel marketers can become a powerful voice in the conversation and engage with consumers in an entirely new way."

Compete's research is based on its panel of 2 million consumers and behaviorally targeted surveys to precise consumer segments.

In a free web presentation taking place on Monday, April 16th at 2:00 Eastern, Compete will present a comprehensive report on Consumer Generated Travel Content. Click here to register.