Guest writer Theresa Emerick of NightsBridge on why you should be using TripAdvisor.
Many business consultants advise putting yourself in your customer’s shoes if you want to test your product or customer service levels. The tourism industry is the one place where this is quite easy to do, since (following Martin’s advice!) we all go away on holiday now and then.
On planning a ski trip to Argentina last year, I was interested to find myself on the other side of the internet research and online booking process. I started by asking friends who had been there about their experience and recommendations. Then I read as much as I could online, finding good information from local and regional tourism sites, as well as commercial sites specifically promoting skiing. Once I had more of an idea about regions and what the operators offered, I started looking at available accommodation on several different web sites to compare prices.
When I had the names of the properties I was interested in, I went to TripAdvisor to see what people who had been there already had to say. And yes – what I read there often changed my mind.
Finally, I booked online. Where the property had a good web site and online booking system that made it easy to book directly on their own site, I did that. In other instances I booked on Booking.com, since I knew the brand name and had used them in the past with success. For the actual ski passes and transfers I used an Afrikaans-speaking South African travel agent who advertised herself as an expert on Argentina, since it was much easier to deal with her than with Spanish-speaking operators.
What lessons did I learn?
First of all, that all the different web sites and roll players had something to contribute to the bigger picture that informed my visit to a country I didn’t know.
Secondly, that I’m quite an average tourist! A recent exercise to gather some facts and figures for an E-Tourism presentation, confirmed that the research and booking process I followed is quite common.
Friends and family are still the first stop for ideas and recommendations. Next in line are the Online Travel Agents, or OTAs (all the accommodation web sites). What surprised me in the research was the high percentage of people who mentioned TripAdvisor in the different studies I looked at. Its claim to be the world’s largest travel web site seems well justified.
I shouldn’t have found that surprising, since I have personally used TripAdvisor even to search for restaurants here in South Africa. I’ve checked more than once to see if a place I haven’t been to in a long time is getting good reviews. (This search is usually done on my mobile phone, which is of course yet another trend we’re all told to keep in mind.)
It’s easy to understand why we value recommendations from friends and family over other contributions. However, where it’s not possible to get all the information we need from our closest confidantes, the next best thing seems to be reviews from other ‘ordinary people’ (travelers or diners like ourselves). We seem to trust their opinions more than the sales pitch we think we might be getting from the property web sites or OTAs.
These are such natural impulses, that’s its difficult to understand why not all B&B owners or hoteliers or restaurateurs are embracing the review sites and using them to their full marketing advantage.
The overwhelming fear of a bad review seems to be what stops many suppliers from participating. Does it matter, in fact, if there are one or two ‘negative’ reviews? No – not if they’re responded to in a positive way. This shows that the management is present and caring – and this might even aid in establishing a property’s credibility rather than detract from it.
Contrary to popular belief however, the overwhelming majority of reviews posted are positive. And as Neil Salerno, the popular US Hotel Marketing Coach said: “Your ‘guest-record’ of facilities and service on TripAdvisor could be one of your hotel’s best sales assets. If your hotel’s over-all record on TripAdvisor is very poor, you have much bigger problems…”
At NightsBridge, we always advise our clients to get a free TripAdvisor listing and actively manage their profile and reviews. TripAdvisor also has a product called Business Listing, which adds direct contact details to your listing (e.g. your own web address, email and telephone number).
NightsBridge announced its exclusive 25% discount on the Business Listing option this week, which makes it more affordable for NightsBridge clients to get high quality leads from their own TripAdvisor pages.
Over and above its free services, TripAdvisor’s Business Listing allows you to put your own web address, email address and telephone number on your TripAdvisor page; Create special offers to increase your visibility; and Show your direct contact details on the TripAdvisor mobile site and app.
For more info on upgrading to Business Listing, you could go to www.TripAdvisor.com/BusinessListings, or you could join a free TripAdvisor webinar designed specifically for NightsBridge clients (and their friends) on Friday, 21 October at 10h00. It promises to offer the best advice on how to manage your listing, how to showcase your property, and how to respond to guest reviews.
To register, visit the NightsBridge blog.