Technology and social media have dissolved the parameters that once neatly defined hospitality marketing, turned consumers into creators, and empowered a whole new breed of travel reviewers.
Love it or hate it, most of these travel reviewers are sharing the good, bad and ugly of their experiences on TripAdvisor—including photos and videos.TripAdvisor
, in case you've been living with your head in the sand for the past decade, aggregates consumer travel reviews and opinions about hotel and resort accommodations throughout the world, and relies on advertising for its revenue. TripAdvisor-branded sites make up the largest travel community in the world, with more than 50 million unique monthly visitors, and over 60 million reviews and opinions. These sites operate in 30 countries worldwide, including China.
They are not going anywhere either. According to Reuters
, TripAdvisor reported second quarter  revenues of more than $197 million.
When it comes to TripAdvisor, I feel much of the hotel and resort marketing community is trippin'—not referring to the "under the influence of drugs"; but rather the metaphorically "in a panic" or "being unrealistic" definitions of the word—and have opted to do nothing rather than take control of their TripAdvisor page.
We can no longer be ostriches.
Word-of-mouth marketers have long touted the power of customer referrals, and we all know recommendations from friends are among the top influences of purchases.
It's simple common sense, and clearly an important issue. Researchers report that as many as one in three travelers visit TripAdvisor before deciding to book a reservation at a destination or hotel for which they are unfamiliar.
In other words, what your TripAdvisor page says about your hotel or resort, and how you are ranked, can genuinely impact your bookings.
So what does your TripAdvisor page say about your hotel today? In fact, how long has it been since you checked? Maybe you should look now, before we go any further.
Go ahead. Check it out. I'll wait.
Hopefully, you read of saw something that has motivated you to continue reading.
So what can you do about it? Really?
I know, I know. You don't have the time or money to do much. I hear you.
No matter. I choose to believe that the spirit of innovation can provide solutions, no matter the challenge—regardless of available human resources or marketing dollars.
I will begin with the basics, and then I'll share an innovative idea I developed a few years ago, which when implemented, has created positive impact for a number of clients.
First, ensure that your TripAdvisor profile is up to date, is as thorough as possible, includes recent and relevant quality images, and aligns with the content on your hotel website and social media channels. According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, 92 percent of travelers are more likely to book with a hotel or resort, which posts detailed property descriptions and photos.
Second, if you are not monitoring and responding to your reviews, you are losing out. You, your general manager, guest relation's manager, or other appropriate party; must respond to all negative reviews [and perhaps the occasional positive one if you like] publicly and individually. All you have to do is set up your hotel's account with TripAdvisor, and you will be able to address all comments posted. Click here to learn more.
And finally, it's important to stay up on the latest from TripAdvisor. Take the time to register for updates.
Now, here's the innovative idea I promised.
When guests are checking out of your hotel, have the front desk person hand them a pen and a blank sheet of paper—4" by 9" or so, with your hotel logo and no lines—and say; "Thank you for staying with us. If you wouldn't mind taking a moment to jot down a line or two about your stay while I check you out, I'd be grateful."
If the guest declines, then no worries, don't make it a big deal. But if the guest does take the time and returns it, your front desk person should add the guest's name, room number and email address to the submission.
During down times, the front desk manager can review the submissions, separating the positive from the negative, and forward them to you, or another appropriate person for follow up.
The follow up is an email message—copied from a saved template residing in a draft email box—which reads;
"Thank you for your recent stay. We read with great pride the comments you left with our front desk upon check out. PASTE THE GUEST'S COMMENTS HERE IN QUOTATION MARKS. We would be grateful if you would take a moment to visit our TripAdvisor page, PASTE LINK HERE, and post your comments for us. Thank you again for staying with us, we look forward to seeing you again soon."
In order to be effective, this must be done in a timely manner, usually within a week or two of their stay.
I promise, you will be amazed at how many guests will take the time to do this. In fact, a surprising number will actually add to their comments and upload images.
The benefits should be clear—improvement in overall TripAdvisor rating, increased positive reviews, growing number of overall reviews, and the ability to quickly push down negative reviews.
Most importantly, this is an activity than can be performed during operational down times, and costs little or no money.
Should you chose to try this, please be sure and come back to share the results of your experience.Reprinted with permission of the author.John Fareed, MSc ISHC CHME is an internationally recognized authority in the field of hospitality marketing. He has spoken on the topic at industry events in Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, United Kingdom, and across the US, Canada and Caribbean. He has appeared as an expert on national television programs including ABC News, CNN and Fox News Network, in publications such as the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal, and has had articles published in numerous trade journals.www.johnfareed.com