Thursday 28 April 2016

What have Online Travel Agents got to hide?

This is from the parliamentary website:

 The newspapers took a less charitable view:

Quite a lot - according to the House of Lords. Accusations cover a wide range:
  • artificially inflating prices by denying the hotels the right to undercut their (the OTA's) quoted prices - rate parity clauses
  • using their financial firepower to dominate Google PPC - resulting in individual hotels being unable to afford to compete for their own names in search
  • using cookies to harvest price sensitive information about travelers in order to up-price offers
  • giving preference in search to hotels who pay the OTA the most commission
  • not committing significant resources in the battle to eliminate fake reviews
  • using misleading advertising to give the impression that the consumer would be financially better off booking through the OTA
The only thing that puzzles us at HelpHound about this sorry state of affairs is that the solution has been right there in the hands of the hospitality industry for years now. And it's so simple:
  1. Look great on Google and TripAdvisor: get great reviews there and have a mechanism for managing comments from less than thrilled guests direct - and offline
  2. Look great on your own websites: what does your prospective guests want to see there? Loads of high resolution images, lots more independently verified reviews and a 'best price promise'.
So let's look at an example: 

Why would this hotel be satisfied with ranking at 385 in London when, virtually at the flick of a switch, they could increase their positive guest reviews by at least a quarter and reduce the negatives by three-quarters?

Why would they allow their Google score to dwindle to within 0.2 of being filtered from mobile search?

And where are the reviews that their potential guests crave? And their price promise?

We have chosen the Cranley precisely because they are representative of good hotels in London. We are just surprised that these good hotels are content to leave their reputations in the hands of the OTAs when they so evidently do not reflect the guest experience and must be doing harm to the hotel.

The solution:

The hotel - and every other hotel - needs to engage with proactive and professional review management:
  • to minimise the amount of inaccurate and misleading negative reviews that are published about them - anywhere in the web
  • to give their guests an easy channel to enable them to write reviews - on the hotel's own website and to external sites that matter: Google, TripAdvisor and the rest
In a word; Dialogue™!

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