“TripAdvisor: Great Enabler Or Evil Empire?”
The perennial blame game continues to miss the crucial
point. Ever since sites like TripAdvisor unwittingly took control of hotels’
reputations away from them they have been seen as a ‘necessary evil’ by much of
the profession. The point we make here (and I made in my comment on Gary
Leopold’s blog post) is that there is no reason for hotels to concern
themselves – once they have taken the essential first step to reclaim
control of their reputations.
This is what Gary Leopold has to say. See the original piece here.“After I wrote my last Marketing:Travel column
addressing the debate
over whether or not hotels should link to the TripAdvisor site, I got an
email from Adele Gutman Milne, vice president of sales & marketing
for HKHotels in New York City. For her, there is no
debate—of course, you link to TripAdvisor. Her four hotels are all
ranked in the top 10 when you search New York City and, for her,
TripAdvisor is definitely the great enabler. It’s given
her small collection of hotels an enormous amount of visibility and that
has translated into bookings. Lots of bookings.
It was clear
that Adele had great confidence in her guest
experience and that the properties focus on a lot of added-value offers,
providing travelers with a great deal for their money. It’s a product
well suited for these economic times and it’s
translating into lots of very positive reviews on TripAdvisor. To the
point that HKHotels proactively invites all its previous guests via
email to post a review and even includes a direct link to the
TripAdvisor site. At last look, its top-ranked Casablanca hotel had over
2,000 reviews and all their other hotels had well over 1,000.
made a point of telling me they’ve really
embraced TripAdvisor and that they work hard to monitor the reviews and
respond when necessary to posts that are both favorable and not.
the other side of the equation is the general
manager of a branded property in downtown Boston who asked that I
withhold his name. He respects TripAdvisor but feels like it does more
bad than good. As he said, “Opinions are like
bellybuttons. Everyone has one.” His property assigns someone full time
to monitor TripAdvisor and other social media sites and they diligently
respond to guest complaints and criticism.
He feels that the reviews are not really representative of the quality
of his property and that hotels that participate in TripAdvisor business
listings and other marketing programs have advantages
that skew public perception. He said it’s important to see if there are
patterns with negative listings and try to mitigate them. In his
instance, it was a room type they were offering through
Priceline that wasn’t what people had been expecting and it led to a
consistent skewering on TripAdvisor. They stopped offering that room
type through that channel and the negative reviews on
that subject quickly stopped.
But it’s not just TripAdvisor that he’s had issues with. He quickly pointed me to www.bedbugregistry.com and lamented that once you’re on that list it’s difficult to get off, even after the issue has long been corrected.
I also talked with Kathy Misunas, an industry veteran who was
formerly the CEO of Sabre and has been an innovator across lots of
technology and marketing channels. She pondered my question for a
moment, and thoughtfully answered that despite all its issues, if she
had to choose one, she’d ultimately rank TripAdvisor as an enabler. For
her, the ability of independent and small hotels to
get noticed by such a huge traveling public outweighed all the potential
negatives having to do with false posts and the fact that so many
travelers have wildly divergent perceptions and expectations.
As a possible solution, she offered that she’d like to see consumer
input done in a more organized fashion that could also include the
results of independently conducted surveys that provide an
additional angle or perspective for consideration.
I next turned
to Mark Hoare, a partner in The Prism Partnership consulting group, and
he was drawn to reference TripAdvisor as having been
seduced to the dark side. He felt they had lost their way when they were
originally bought by Expedia and that as they continue to try to
monetize their business (and answer to investors) that
they’ll develop more and more business practices that offset the
company’s original vision of unbiased traveler reviews. He said that the
aggregated scoring has diminished value due to the
potential for gaming the hotel’s placement and that you’re virtually
forced to read all the reviews in order to develop any kind of useful
view on a property. From his perspective,
TripAdvisor is suffering from the consequences of not building in any
mechanism to validate and pre-qualify reviews before they are exposed on
To add further fuel to this debate, it
should be noted that several vacation rental management companies have
recently begun adding non-disparaging clauses to their rental agreements
and are charging guests up to $5,000 on their credit
card for posting reviews without written consent. While finding ways to
gag guest commentary may be extreme, the idea of finding ways to address
and mitigate problems before negative reviews are
posted certainly has merit.
No doubt your perspective on
TripAdvisor is shaped by where you sit in the industry and the extent to
which the reviews are helping or hurting your business. What
continues to remain clear is that TripAdvisor can’t be ignored.
So what is your view? Great Enabler or Evil Empire?”