June 17, 2013: TripAdvisor: Hotelier’s Friend or Foe?


U.S.A - June 17, 2013- By Anne Edwards, Editor in Chief, ehotelier

  Julio Bruno, Global Vice President of Sales, TripAdvisor Business.

In the lead up to the presentation of TripAdvisor’s Australian Certificates of Excellence, ehotelier spoke to Julio Bruno about the relationship between TripAdvisor and hoteliers.

Is TripAdvisor adding value to the hotel industry?

Mr Bruno: Yes, we play a very important role. One of the key aspects of TripAdvisor is that it provides a democratic platform to hoteliers and what I mean by that is that if you are a large, multinational property, you get one page on TripAdvisor, and if you are a small independent property, you get one page on TripAdvisor. In this way, we are providing a level playing field for hoteliers.

Another aspect of adding value to the hotel industry is getting hoteliers closer to what the consumer wants, in terms of location, price, where to stay, what to eat, what to do. The consumer today is online and mobile and it is quite possible that hoteliers will not be able to move as fast as consumers. TripAdvisor represents the forefront of consumer comment and thought. In this way, if the hotel industry follows TripAdvisor, they will be able to get a clear picture of what their guests are looking for.

Are social media sites such as TripAdvisor a promotional tool, or a soap box for customer complaints?

Mr Bruno: Both. There is a misconception in the industry that TripAdvisor is a place for complaining. Our rating system is out of 5, where 5 is the highest rating possible and our data shows that globally,  the average rating for hotels on TripAdvisor is currently is 4 out of 5. What we see from this statistic is that people mainly go to TripAdvisor to share their experiences. In Australia, 68% of all accommodation listed receives a rating of 3.5 or above. In order to qualify for the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, you need a rating of at least four – 1,799 hotel properties in Australia were awarded Certificates of Excellence this year.

A recent Cornell study points to the fact that more people are visiting TripAdvisor to assist in their hotel research. Plus, those already using the site are returning more often and all users are viewing more reviews before making hotel choices. In addition to that, what people want is to be able to have a say. TripAdvisor is neutral rather than transactional, so can be trusted to provide this platform for the public voice.

On the subject of trust, how does TripAdvisor manage the site in terms of fraudulent reviews?

Mr Bruno: We utilise sophisticated filters and behavioural modelling to constantly detect fraudulent behaviour.  Suspicious activity is then flagged with our international team of quality assurance specialists who use a variety of additional confidential investigative methods designed to identify potential fraud.  Our passionate community of travellers and owners also report suspicious content that is duly investigated and if any review fails to meet our guidelines it is removed from the site.

So, if I were a small property in, say, Ireland, and a negative review was written about my hotel by the hotel down the road, how would I go about getting it removed and how long would it take?

Mr Bruno: Your first step would be to contact us through our online Management Centre if you feel you’ve been subjected to an unfair review. It will then be reviewed against policy and the legal requirements of that region. Our team of content integrity specialists investigates in detail every report of suspicious content. If a review is found to be in breach of our guidelines, it will be removed from the site. 

If I were a hotelier, why would I not join TripAdvisor?

Mr Bruno: That’s a good question. In Australia, 63% of properties listed on TripAdvisor have at least one registered owner in the TripAdvisor Management Centre which they need in order to engage with TripAdvisor’s large community of travellers and write responses to their reviews which leaves 37% who don’t. Why? Some hoteliers are doing so well – they have 100% occupancy because of their excellent location or facilities or both and they say they don’t need TripAdvisor.  We encourage them to register, because it is free. In the past, hoteliers employed mystery shoppers to provide them with feedback but TripAdvisor can provide that free of charge. The ratio in the United States is higher in the proportion of hotels on TripAdvisor to those who are not. They have had more access there to information about the benefits. We conduct free Master Classes on how to encourage owner engagement – what are the free tools available on TripAdvisor and how can they enhance their online presence? Last year, close to 1300 properties attended these Master Classes in the Asia Pacific region. Over 180 hoteliers attended our Master Class in Brisbane this past February and we hosted classes in Sydney and Perth last year.

What is the importance of online reputation management?

Mr Bruno: Word of mouth reputation has always been the most important driver of not only hotel business, but all business. Social media is word of mouth without the barriers of distance or time. For hoteliers, suddenly this means that properties have a marketing strategy, worldwide. Of course there are those hotels with enormous marketing and social media budgets and those without, but managing your online reputation cleverly does not take a huge budget in order to bring in groups of travellers you never even thought about.

As well as this, Chris K. Anderson’s study, published recently by the Cornell Centre for Hospitality Research, has shown that a good social media reputation can allow hotels to sell more rooms at better rates.

Anderson's study is the first comprehensive effort to quantify the impact of social media upon lodging performance as measured by bookings, occupancy, and revenue. First, he documented the increasing influence of TripAdvisor, as the number of reviews consulted by consumers prior to booking a hotel room has steadily increased over time. Second, an analysis of transactional data from Travelocity illustrated that a 1-point increase on Travelocity's 5-point scale allows the hotel to increase its price by 11.2 percent and still maintain the same occupancy or market share. Third, by matching ReviewPRO's Global Review IndexTM with STR's hotel sales and revenue data, Anderson's analysis finds that a 1-percent increase in a hotel's online reputation score leads up to a 0.89-percent increase in a hotel's average daily rate (ADR), as well as an occupancy increase of up to 0.54 percent and up to a 1.42-percent increase in revenue per available room (RevPAR).

What is the single most important thing, in terms of social media, that hoteliers should be doing to engage with guests?

Mr Bruno: I would say ‘Answer your customers.’ They are spending their time writing so the minimum a hotelier should do is to answer. Say thank you for good reviews and try not to use the same reply each time. If you don’t answer they might think you don’t care. Remember that your reply will be seen by others. If it has been a bad review, don’t get emotional - just present the side of your hotel. Playing the ostrich and putting your head in the sand is not helpful – if you ignore social media sites like TripAdvisor, they won’t go away. TripAdvisor is simply an intermediary, telling you, the hotelier, what the public is saying about you.