Thursday 23 January 2014

Learning from TripAdvisor award winners

It's awards season again - from the Oscars to TripAdvisor awards. It's a topic that always gets raised when we meet clients in January and February, so we thought it worthy of a post here.

Lessons to be learned from award winners

Here's a great article by Fiona Duncan, the Telegraph's travel expert (as many of you will know Fiona also edits the acclaimed Charming Small Hotels guides - here's a link to all the hotels she's reviewed for her regular column in the Sunday Telegraph) which chimes absolutely with our own thoughts, and long may respected travel writers continue to plead with TripAdvisor to make their awards, and, just a importantly, their ranking system, more accurately reflect the experience travelers can expect.

But for now, you, our clients, must make the very best of the status quo, and it's our job to make that as easy and painless as possible. So what can you do that the award winners are already doing? What habits do they have that you can easily adopt?

Playing the system

There's now doubt that the award winners run great establishments, even if (as Fiona points out) they may not be to everyone's taste. But so do the overwhelming majority of hoteliers we meet in our day-to-day working lives. There has to be something else, and there is: they are 'playing the TripAdvisor game'. Wittingly or unwittingly, they are giving TripAdvisor what they want.

The numbers game

Let's look at TripAdvisor's No1 B&B in the whole wide world, Bindon Bottom in Dorset:

With 5 bedrooms and only opened in 2010, they have 459 reviews.

They get over 2.5 reviews a week. That's nearly a third as many as the Savoy (which reopened just after them) which has 268 rooms!

But more important than that, we have a very good idea that they ask their guests to write reviews, or at the very least they discuss reviews with their guests. How do we know that? We don't for certain, but there are clues in today's Times article. Lisa, who owns the Bindon Bottom with her husband Clive, says, when questioned about the four star reviews: "One guest said that 'He never gives 5* reviews' and another 'wanted a bigger guest lounge' and the third 'that there wasn't enough drawer space.'" The 'bigger guest lounge' is mentioned in one of the reviews, but there is nothing in the other two to link the guest with the review. It was a habit they probably formed as soon as they opened in competition with the other 17 B&Bs in the village, as they had quite a bit of catching up to do, and hasn't it paid off handsomely?

The other reason we think they actively canvas reviews is the sheer number they get - the next B&B in West Lulworth has 118 reviews (111 excellent and 7 very good, since you ask), but over 7 years. Less than one-and-a-half reviews a month. 

Bigger Hotels

Now, some of you are already starting to murmer along the lines of 'that's all very well, but we run an 50/100/800 bedroom hotel, how can we be expected to get reviews in volume?'

Well, our first response to that is that you are streets ahead of the Bindon Bottom in terms of your potential to get reviews, with over 10/20/160 times as many guests staying. It's simply a matter of front-of-house engaging with your guests. Look at what London's No 1 Hotel on TripAdvisor has achieved with 'only' 28 rooms:

And the first 'biggie' in the list, The Corinthia at 7th with 298 rooms:

So, given that ranking = revenue...

  • Ask for reviews - using Dialogue™, of course!
  • Engage front-of-house - we'll help with training
  • Respond to reviews - using Feedback Manager™, if you don't have the resources

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