Guest ratings and price are more influential than brand reputation when travellers book hotels, according to a report from the Expedia Group and Unabashed Research.

That cost influences buying decisions is no surprise — “promotions and discounts that represent a real value to the customer is an almost guaranteed way to get hotel shoppers’ attention,” the study noted — but researchers found a 72 per cent chance that a traveller would pay more for a hotel with higher guest ratings, versus solely selecting a hotel by brand.

“Travellers are willing to pay more for hotels with higher guest ratings, and considerably more so than for premium branding,” according to Expedia.

“This shows that guest ratings have essentially leveled the playing field for independent hotels, as more potential guests seek out third-party endorsements for hotel properties they are considering,” according to the white paper authored by Abhijit Pal, head of research, lodging partner services, at Expedia Group.

“Today’s brands succeed by filling up their hotels with business and group travellers, and for many second-tier business destinations, it may feel impossible to be an independent hotelier. Online marketplaces can help convince leisure travellers, as well as road warriors and their employers, to choose independent properties.”

Less influential on buying decisions than brand were star ratings, room images, and callouts about renovations.

The findings were based on surveys of 903 people. The full report can be seen here.