Consumers are increasingly turning to the online environment to provide information to assist them in making purchase decisions related to travel products. They often rely on travel recommendations from different sources, such as sellers, independent experts and, increasingly, other consumers. A new type of online content, user-generated content (UGC), provides a number of legal and social challenges to providers and users of that content, especially in relation to areas such as defamation, misrepresentation and social embarrassment. This paper reports research that examined the level of trustworthiness of online travel information from these different sources. The study used a survey of Australian travel consumers (n = 12,000) and results support the notion that there are differences in the level of trust for online travel information from different sources. Respondents ‘tended to agree’ that they trusted information provided by travel agents, information from commercial operators and comments made by travellers on third party websites. However, the highest level of trust was afforded to information provided on State government tourism websites. These results suggest that greater trust is placed in online travel comments when they are on a specific travel website than when they are on a more generic social networking website. However, respondents were ‘not sure’ that they trusted comments made by travellers on weblogs and on social networking sites. Some 88% of respondents that had not visited UGC websites (or were unsure if they had) indicated that they thought that UGC would be useful in the future – suggesting that they feel that any concerns they may have in relation to legal and social problems resulting from its use will be resolved.
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