Embrace the Customer

  • November 2000: TripAdvisor launched
  • November 2005: TripAdvisor reaches its millionth review
  • April 2007: TripAdvisor holds seven million reviews, receives 20 million unique visits per month

These milestones are evidence of a new way of approaching and processing and interpreting the travel experience. How long before TripAdvisor has 10 million or 20 million reviews? Managers at the Expedia.com division won't speculate, but it is fair to believe that date is fast approaching.

In TripAdvisor and its peers, like Igoyougo.com and HotelChatter.com, travelers have another source of opinions about virtually every lodging property across the globe. Not to mention opportunities to post their own opinions.

Its size makes TripAdvisor a phenomenon, but it is just one of an array of consumer-driven sites — feedback sites, blogs, social networking sites (MySpace.com, FaceBook.com, etc.) and photo/video sharing sites (Flickr.com, YouTube.com, etc.) often labeled collectively as consumer-generated content. These are key to Web 2.0, the term for the “new” Internet era (or in the case of travel-related sites, Travel 2.0). Together, they offer a very public forum for our guests to talk about us and a way for us to engage in an active and beneficial dialogue.

As they always have, people will talk about us and our properties. Sometimes the comments will be positive, sometimes negative. Today, however, the forum for expressing those comments has changed. While the remarks are more public, they also give us a chance to respond and serve the double purpose of satisfying an unhappy client as well as reassuring the larger group of our potential guests.

Without question, undertaking a dialog is not easy — especially when it is with scores (or more) of people on any given day. But it is no longer an option whether hotels will read reviews in key feedback sites. The larger traveler feedback sites make it increasingly difficult to post a bogus review and increasingly easy for a hotelier to post a response.

That said, how well do hotels step up to the opportunity of engaging in a dialogue, how well do they respond to criticism in the Travel 2.0 environment? The answer, according to operators of these alternative, “public” websites, is, generally, not very well. In many cases, hotels still struggle to decide if responsibility for monitoring is corporate or at property level, whether to assign a person to review and respond to such sites, and to translate the criticism into a follow-up/correction plan.

It is easy to distrust, even fear, travel-feedback sites, but it's unnecessary and inappropriate. Especially in leisure, people eagerly anticipate and generally enjoy travel, including our efforts to host them comfortably. Across all travel providers — including services sometimes held in lower regard than hotels — 60 percent of product reviews submitted to TripAdvisor award either four or five stars to the service provider. The average facility/service score is a none-too-shabby 3.74 (out of five).

Traveler feedback sites — indeed, all of Travel 2.0 — offer the hotel community an opportunity to participate and benefit on two levels. First, through continuing the positive public dialogue. Second, by heeding legitimate criticism and correcting the cause of those comments (and promptly reporting their resolution on the originating site).

The result: conversation, conversions of inquiries to bookings, and stronger, more profitable property operations.


Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals Hall of Famer John Burns is president of Hospitality Technology Consulting. Call him at 480-661-6797 or e-mail john@burns-htc.com.

ADVERTISERS ARE PRINTED IN RED

For company listings, see directory on pages 60-68

CENTRAL RESERVATION SYSTEMS
GDS connectivity Guest history (individual) Timeshare-condo management Automatic rate/room availability Activities scheduling (tee times, tennis) Private-label voice services Group/housing reservations Guest history (corporate) Corporate room contribution Channel management capabilities Corporate/TA room contribution tracking Revenue management or interfaces to RM Web/browser-enabled IDS connectivity OTA XML interfaces to PMS Dynamic packaging capabilities Sales & catering interface Web booking engine Mobile device bookability Per-arrival/Post-departure e-mailsw
Agilysys — Circle 128
AltiusPAR — Circle 129
Amadeus — Circle 130
BluFi Wireless — Circle 135
GoConcierge — Circle 148
Hotel Concepts — Circle 156
IDeaS — Circle 167
Inn-Client Server Systems — Circle 162
innRoad — Circle 166
IQWare — Circle 168
Lodging Interactive — Circle 176
Micros Systems — Circle 180
Multi-Systems Inc. — Circle 186
Northwind Maestro — Circle 188
PAR Springer-Miller — Circle 192
Passkey — Circle 193
Pegasus Solutions — Circle 195
RedSky IT — Circle 203
Remco — Circle 204
Sceptre Hospitality Resources — Circle 209
SoftBrands — Circle 212
SynXis — Circle 215
Topaz Hotel Services — Circle 222
TravelCLICK — Circle 223

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