TripAdvisor – the power of your neighbour’s opinion
When I read in the largest circulation travel trade publication recently, a direct quote attributed to one of our most prominent hoteliers, my first response was to cringe.
He stated ‘TripAdvisor is sort of a menace…. because it’s hard to get people to go online to post good comments’.
Hopefully this is entirely a personal view and is not being adopted in any national tourism policy.
‘Menace’ or not, TripAdvisor, already the world’s largest travel site, went into history last month by becoming the first travel brand to have more than 40 million unique visitors in one month. So far this year, the site has experienced a 60 per cent growth.
TripAdvisor is currently available in 14 languages, across 23 countries worldwide, so it is present in every marketplace that Barbados is targeting.
It’s not likely to go away in the foreseeable future, and that is why more and more hotel groups together with individual properties are learning to embrace the reality and maximise the phenomenal potential.
French based Accor, operating under the Novotel, Sofitel and Mercure brands worldwide, now have a TripAdvisor link on the dedicated websites of each of its 4,000-plus hotels.
So prior to booking any one of their hotels, a discerning traveller can read previous guests reviews.
Of course, this is a move not without risk, with no guarantee the reviews that come up will be positive.
The power of user-generated content
Director of Marketing, quality and consumer product for Accor, Claire Wearne, says ‘the company’s decision to work with TripAdvisor is recognition of the power of user-generated content’.
‘Hotels have only two choices: work with online reviews or ignore them at their peril’.
‘We appreciate that the decision making of our guests is no longer limited to information in our brochure’.
She added ‘you can’t get much better than honest transparent feedback’ and ‘Is there a better way for a General Manager to really
understand what a guest thinks?’.
False and malicious postings a concern
There is naturally a downside. Malicious or false postings are a concern. Our hotel has personally encountered two.
The first still remains on our TripAdvisor listing page, written by a guest who stated that they stayed with us when we were actually closed. The second from a guest that did stay with us and then wrote a completely untrue posting. We contacted the Content Integrity department at TripAdvisor and after verification, they removed the objectionable comments.
Currently around 700 hotels, bed and breakfasts and innkeepers are threatening action for slander against TripAdvisor according to the UK Guardian newspaper.
One individual case that hit the headlines recently, involved a couple that were evicted from a hotel by the owner for writing a poor review. Go onto the TripAdvisor site and you will see that 40 per cent of the persons that posted reviews on this hotel would not recommend
this property to a friend.
It’s clear that there are always two sides to a story or posting and the vast majority of people understand this.
The big danger is that during this global economic recession that hotels cut back in quality deliverance and service standards and this severely impacts on the guest experience and subsequently any negative comments they make.
It is also vital that managers regularly check TripAdvisor to quickly address critical comments, that in some cases seem to occur unresolved again and again.