The Complex Matter of Online Hotel Choice

Bing Pan, Lixuan Zhang, Chun Hung Roberts Law

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Hotels that appear near the top of the list of search results or an online travel agency page usually get more attention and hits than those showing up lower on the page, but other factors create exceptions to this rule. This study demonstrates that the complexities of the consumer decision process extend beyond mere page position. Other factors that influence consumers' attention to options in a list of hotels include the number of options and the presence of images. The study underlines the principle that the position of a hotel in a list and on a web page fold helps determine subjects' attention. Beyond that, presenting test subjects with a lengthy set of hotel options (twenty hotels in this case) seemed to overwhelm the subjects, who tended to reduce their consideration set using different strategies, notably by focusing on price. In addition to creating a more favorable consideration of a hotel, presenting images of the hotels meant that the subjects evaluated more hotels, and reviewed each option more carefully by paying more attention to both the images and the accompanying text. The presence of images not only helped to alleviate the perceived information overload problem but also induced more hedonic elements in decision making, including encouraging guests to consider a hotel that did not otherwise shine in the text description. As a result, we recommend reducing the number of options on one page, understanding web visitors' conversion rates through a nonlinear formula of attention, and providing appealing and interesting images when a hotel is inferior in terms of other criteria.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-83
Number of pages10
JournalCornell Hospitality Quarterly
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013


  • decision heuristics
  • eyetracking
  • hotel decision making
  • online travel agency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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