10 Mar 2012

How Good Is Your Hotel's Online Reputation?

Today's travellers love to tout their experiences whenever and wherever possible.  

Whether they post their travel reviews on Facebook, Google+, TripAdvisor, Amazon.com, Yelp, or simply send an email to their universe of friends and colleagues, the bottom line is, good or bad, the information is going to get out.

Consider this: Statistics show that the average Facebook user has approximately 130 friends. In the social media realm, that equates to approximately 10,000 friends of friends, and over 1,000,000 friends of friends of friends. If a Facebook page has 500,000 fans (fans are people who clicked "Like"), you can imagine the vast reach each guest review can have in attracting travellers.

Whether you manage this manually or you invest in one of the new Website Guest Review Systems there are some compelling reasons why you should consider your response to on-line reviews as critical to 2012 operations:

1. Gain Control Over What You Want Displayed on Your Website.
Due to the nature of the Web, there is no real way to validate whether or not a person claiming to be a guest with a bad experience actually stayed at your hotel. Placing guest reviews directly on the hotel's website puts a stop to fake reviews posted by competitors or dishonest guests looking for refunds. This not only helps hotels maintain an impeccable reputation, but it gives hotel owners and managers an opportunity to interact personally with their guests more frequently. By having complete control to approve or deny any guest review that appears on your site, hoteliers can better manage their online reputations.

2. Boost Credibility and Display Trustworthiness.
As travelers are doing more and more of their research online, hotels and resorts are relying on online reviews to entice new guests to stay at their properties. But consumers are getting smart. With critics complaining that an entire cottage industry of paid reviewers has sprung up, travelers are questioning the validity of reviews found on booking sites like Orbitz, Travelocity and Hotels.com. This makes moving reviews to the hotel's website even more valuable. Hotels that post replies -- both positive and negative -- will be seen as more credible and trustworthy.

3. Capture Lost Business From Third Party Review Sites.
Hotels risk losing website visitors if those potential bookers are forced to leave the website in search of guest reviews on third party websites. Once gone, they may never come back or worse, they may book with the competition or third-party distributor such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia or Hotel.com that sell rooms at a considerably lower rate. Adding a Guest Review System keeps your guests on your site and turns lookers into bookers at rates that you are comfortable with.

Studies have shown that 75% of online travel buyers will check at least three review sites before booking online.

4. Improve Communications with Guests Via Real-Time Email Alerts.
According to Forrester, 49 percent of people won't make a reservation at a property that has no reviews; only 7 percent of hotels are responding to reviews even though 71 percent of travelers say that seeing a management response is important. In addition, 79 percent of people say that seeing a response to a negative review is reassuring. When deciding between two hotels, Forrester reports that 65 percent of people seeing a management response would sway them to book with the responding hotel. But be careful in how you respond. Forrester advises that aggressively worded management responses will do more harm than good according to 60% of the people.

5. Expand Social Media Effectiveness Quickly and Cost Effectively.
Integrating a guest review system with Facebook is key to expanding a hotel's social media effectiveness. This link enables hotels to collect and share their guest reviews right from their hotel Facebook pages. In addition, past guests can share their own reviews via a hotel's Facebook page.

Based on an article in: HospitalityNet