How a hotel deals with what guests say is the most important aspect, according to operators and consultants.
“The issue of hotel review sites is the hottest topic for hoteliers right now,” said Edward Perry, senior director of e-commerce for WorldHotels and secretary for the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association. “It truly has the ability to directly impact the level of business a hotel gets.”
PhocusWright’s Consumer Travel Report supports Perry’s theory: The majority of travelers (50 percent) indicated that traveler reviews on online travel agencies were slightly to very influential in travel planning. However, this means that sites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz hold more weight with online shoppers than traveler review sites (33 percent), such as TripAdvisor (owned by Expedia) and TravelPost.
It is important to point out that the latter group causes more anxiety for hoteliers, it seems—particularly when it comes to unsubstantiated negative comments from “guests.”
Marcel M. Andeweg, group GM for Alisa Hotels in Accra, Ghana, said he followed up on an extremely bad guest experience posted to TripAdvisor, but got nowhere with the author or TripAdvisor.
“The motivation was that it would be contradictory to (TripAdvisor’s) policy of integrity,” Andeweg said. “… I was left with the distinct feeling that they thought I was making it all up.”
So, what’s a hotelier to do? At the very least, the guest feedback sites need to be monitored.
At least one person per hotel should be responsible for keeping a watchful eye on all social media tools and review customer responses at least once a week, Perry said. If a property is too large or there is no one to keep up with it, there is the possibility of using a third-party manager to provide reports on customer responses, including services from TripAdvisor.
True or false, positive or negative, hotels should use TripAdvisor manager tools to reply to feedback, said Alex Blufton, key account manager, EMEA, InterContinental Hotels Group. “It shows integrity and the fact that you are listening to your consumers. … The vast majority of people (who) use TripAdvisor as a decision support tool will recognize this too. Let the consumer decide which category the author fits into and how much emphasis should be placed on it.”
To write a management response to a review on TripAdvisor:
1. Type the name of the accommodation, restaurant or attraction in the search box at the top of the home page.
2. In the search results, click the name of your property to go to its detail page.
3. Scroll down to the “Do your own” section at the bottom of the page.
4. Click the Owner´s Page link in this section.
5. On the Owner´s Page, click “Respond to a review” and fill out the response form.
Andeweg suggested that feedback sites could address feedback validity with the same format as Booking.com by asking those that booked through the site to post a comment after their stays. By doing so it becomes “impartial advice” from “real guests,” according to Booking.com.
“A site like TripAdvisor can do the same,” Andeweg said. “They are a member of the Expedia.com family with numerous Web sites providing booking opportunities in a large number of hotels. Even when hotels are not affiliated with Expedia.com or its subsidiaries, they can still be booked when the hotel is represented in the GDS. … The technology is there, as proven not only by other booking engines, but by other sites such as eBay. You purchase through eBay and your transaction becomes complete after sending feedback.”