Reviewer Types….

I loved this by Daniel Craig (no, not that one) in HotelInteractive

“In 2007, a traveler wrote the following review of Opus Hotel Vancouver on TripAdvisor: “The GM who thought he was Ian Fleming was a real detriment to a great trip. Shame — let’s hope the hotel sees sense and releases Daniel to make another movie.” Ouch. The comment was a reference to my James Bond namesake and my secondary career as a mystery novelist, but nonetheless I was baffled by it, having no recollection of any guest encounter that would have provoked a public cry for my dismissal.

Since the review was anonymous, we had no way of contacting the guest to find out what went wrong. Because it was a personal attack that offered little useful information, we asked TripAdvisor to remove it. But they refused, and it remains there today. Sometimes we hoteliers have to set aside our professionalism and say, “Whatever”. (When it comes to reviews) a few reviewer types have emerged whose advice should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism. In the spirit of parody, here are a few to watch out for.

The Self-Appointed Expert. This reviewer has posted scores of reviews, yet quite possibly has never left his computer room. An aspiring travel memoirist, he writes lengthy, flowery missives colored with acid-tongued remarks like, “To call this a fleabag hotel would be an insult to fleas and bags everywhere.” Although he positions himself as a martyr to the travel community, he wouldn’t object if a hotel offered him a free stay in exchange for a glowing review.

The Patron Saint of Hotels. This reviewer is so over-the-top in her praise either she’s never had a vacation before or she’s been into the sacred wine. She rates all services as excellent, including those the hotel doesn’t offer, and uses exalted phrases like “A hidden gem!”, “Glorious!” and “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!” Because she insists on seeing the good in everyone, she often finds herself making excuses on behalf of a hotel, such as, “My niece fell down the elevator shaft, but I’m sure they’ve gotten that fixed.”

The Up-trader. Having scoured the internet for deals until he scored a five-star hotel at a two-star rate, this bargain-hunter now expects all other services to be equally discounted. He expresses moral outrage over charges for breakfast, telephone and the mini-bar, accusing the hotel of gouging. His comments are revealing: “$28 for parking!?! That’s how much I usually pay for a room! Rip OFF!”

The Down-trader. This high-flying business traveler used to spend lavishly on luxury hotels until the economic crisis forced a drastic reduction in her expense account. Now obliged to stay in budget properties, she lives in denial, complaining bitterly about the lack of a day spa, fur boutique and gourmet restaurant at her roadside motel.

The Uncle Bob. Like that dull relative who subjects you to endless vacation photos and anecdotes, this reviewer goes on and on but never manages to say anything helpful or interesting. “My room had a bed and a desk and a chair. Oh, and a painting of a landscape. Molly at the front desk—or was it Maggie? Well, whoever it was, gosh darn was she swell when we needed directions to the local IHOP…” Next.

The Extortionist. After a series of mishaps, all of which were his own fault, this traveler tried every trick in the book to weasel a comp stay from the hotel, and now resorts to posting a blistering online review. He rates everything as terrible, including things that were perfectly fine. His reviews read like ransom notes, with bad spelling and grammar, excess punctuation, and random capital letters: “This hOtel SUKCED!! RobeRto the Duty manger?%? was LaiMe…!!!!!”

The Shill. This reviewer writes in a style that sounds suspiciously like the hotel’s promo material, with phrases only marketing people use, like “nestled in the heart of vibrant old-town” and “well-appointed furnishings with dreamy Celestial Comfort™ beds”. Her review contrasts sharply with the other, not-so-generous reviews and is typically a one-off. Although she signs off with a cutesy pseudonym like “TravlinGrrrl”, she’s undoubtedly the hotel’s director of marketing.

The Forensic Examiner. This CSI enthusiast treats hotel rooms like a crime scene, posting reviews with gory photographic evidence of carpet stains, bathroom mold and bedbug bites. Even when his review is glowing, his photos make the room look cheap and squalid, particularly when personal items and family members are in the background.

The Corporate Saboteur. This reviewer is a hotel owner writing a nasty, bogus review of a competitor hotel in hopes of boosting his own property’s ratings. Telltale signs include anonymity and remarks like, “I finally checked outta that dump and went to the ABC HOTEL. Twenty bucks cheaper and free donuts! I’ll never stay anywhere else!”

There’s no question, online reviews are a great resource, providing insight, humor and tried-and-true tips from the field. Yet travelers shouldn’t forget to consult the experts in print and online guidebooks, newspapers and magazines. If I find a lump on my throat, I’m heading to a doctor for treatment, not to some online quack who claims to be able to show me how to remove the lump from home.

We can all help increase the reliability of reviews by posting our own after our trips. Just remember to stick to the facts, play fair, and go easy on the punctuation. And try not to get too personal. It might not always seem evident, but hotel managers have feelings too.”

Great stuff Daniel!


TripAdvisor And Companies

So, it’s not just individual travellers taking notice of sites like TripAdvisor then! This from

“TripAdvisor and similar user review websites now influence corporate decisions on hotels to the tune of £500m a year, according to research firm BDRC. In a BDRC survey of 1,000 business travellers, 28% said they actively seek advice on websites featuring consumer reviews; 46% were influenced in their hotel selection by consumer reviews, while 41% decided to change their original hotel choice after reading about other travellers’ experiences.

The influence of word of mouth recommendations – both on and off line – outweighs the star ratings offered by the AA and RAC and official ratings and advice from travel agents, the survey revealed. With 40% of respondents citing them as “very reliable”, personal recommendations were the most trusted source of information, followed by information supplied by the company business travellers were visiting (33%).”

The picture? The awesome Victoria Falls of course!


Review Sites

This from Tnooz and posted by Kevin May UK on 28 September 2009

There is a dilemma facing many travel companies when they decide that implementing online user reviews is one of the best ways to improve their content and trigger some user interaction.
European tour operating giant Thomas Cook Group’s Direct Holidays division is the latest in a seemingly endless line to have found itself with such a problem – create a review platform from scratch, borrow reviews from a friendly affiliate or white label an existing service?

In this case, despite the opportunity to borrow a large number of hotel reviews from the main site, Direct Holidays has decided to build its own service. So far, so good – there are plenty, probably hundreds of travel sites on the web with their own user review system. But where Direct has deviated away from the norm, perhaps, is in its decision to host the reviews on a totally new domain, with its own brand.

Clearly in its infancy, The Big Picture Direct boasts 500 reviews from customers across its portfolio of destinations and includes ratings according to cleanliness, food, hotel service, location, room comfort and price value. A Thomas Cook Group spokeswoman says Direct has a distinct strategy of its own and therefore wanted to create a service “unique” to the brand, rather than borrow reviews from the mothership or throw in TripAdvisor content in the same way arch rival Thomson did in 2007.

The formation of a new and separate brand for reviews is an intriguing move – and one that would concern some in the SEO community given that the unique content associated with user reviews is, existing protocol says, best placed on the main website. Maybe what is being planned for the site in the coming months, as managing director Steve Barrass explains, throws a brighter light on the strategy.

The Big Picture Direct will be “further personalised to offer features such as an online chat facility, giving customers the opportunity to catch up with friends they made while away or ask any burning questions that travel brochures and traditional review sites don’t cover”. That sounds more akin to plans for a Lite social network, rather than a straightforward review site.”
There’s no doubt is there that Client reviews on line are shaking up the whole tourism and hospitality industries!


Chanters & The Biosphere

I re-blogged a piece yesterday about hotel reviews, here’s the latest review of Chanters Lodge:

“I spent two short periods (two nights and three nights) at the beginning and end of a Biosphere expedition to Caprivi at Chanters Lodge having stayed in one of the bigger hotels last year. Chanters was delightful and the staff very friendly and helpful. Richard, the manager, made advance bookings for me of a number of activities by email and arranged free transport from and to Livingstone airport which maximised my time to see the sights and wildlife. The free wifi to check email was a bonus.

The restaurant has a tempting menu with a wide range of dishes including authentic Zambian food and does not disappoint. We had our end-of-expedition dinner there and they coped brilliantly with the unexpected extra numbers. Some people on our expedition switched to Chanters on our return leg as a result of our positive reports.”

How nice is that then!


Hotel Reviews

I’m back on one of my favourite topics again. Hotel reviews. This piece from Dennis Schaal‘s blog caught my eye:

He writes:

“Any smart company should monitor the social-media airwaves and at least listen to its critics therefore you have to give TripAdvisor some credit at least for reaching out to its critics and making a few tweaks to its hotel-review policies, although the modifications so far haven’t been earth-shattering. Jay Karen, president and CEO of the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, has met periodically with TripAdvisor officialdom and presented the company with a list of pet peeves from his B&B constituency.

Karen won’t take credit for any policy changes, but he undoubtedly has had an influence. The changes have ranged from minor to significant. For example, TripAdvisor initially permitted hotel reviews up to five years after the guest supposedly stayed at the property. Karen pushed for one year instead. “They left it fairly liberal from the get-go, because at first they needed to populate their site with reviews,” Karen says. “[TripAdvisor President and CEO] Steve Kaufer said this in a meeting with me, but he said now that their site has plenty of reviews, that they certainly could look at that policy. So, they changed it to three years. A step in the right direction, but I think a few more steps would be good.”

Of course, the downside in this is that there is no verification of when — or if — someone actually stayed at the hotel or inn. Other changes have been a bit more important. Earlier this year, Karen suggested and TripAdvisor changed the way it displays Best Deals. Previously, beneath the display of a property like the Jersey Cape Motel in Cape May, N.J., TripAdvisor might have displayed Best Deals: Jersey Cape Motel, but provided links to intermediaries and other properties that were competitors of the Jersey Cape Motel. Today, at the suggestion of Karen (and perhaps others), TripAdvisor has changed the display to Best Deals: Cape May. Thus a bait and switch is eliminated and the properties’ brands are not being misused.

“Another change that looks to be forthcoming, which I have lobbied for, as well, is for B&Bs to have links on their [TripAdvisor] pages that go back to their own websites,” Karen says. Today, since most smaller properties still are absent from global distribution systems or large online travel companies like Expedia, you’d be hard-pressed to find an advertising link to the Jersey Cape Motel or similar properties on their TripAdvisor pages. Thus, if you want to book that property under review, you’d have to find another way to do it outside of TripAdvisor. “We’re hoping in early 2010 for there to be a reciprocal link program for B&Bs,” Karen said. “This would be a big change for our industry.”

Change at TripAdvisor has been a slow-go. That’s because TripAdvisor has been unbelievably successful with its current formula despite all the “noise” out there from people like Karen, me and countless others. Karen acknowledges that TripAdvisor officials have been good listeners, but he likens the pace of change over there to re-positioning an ocean-liner. Almost everyone in the hospitality industry now acknowledges the importance of TripAdvisor and consumer hotel reviews, and the lodging industry is grappling with best practices.

Perhaps TripAdvisor should convene a blogger/hotel industry summit to move the conversation forward. However, my best guess is that will not be happening any time soon. If it weren’t handled properly, with all the passion generated on the hotel review issue, the meeting could degenerate into something like one of those healthcare-reform town hall meetings. Business and democracy — whether we are talking about hotel reviews and the advertising/media business, or healthcare reform — can be a noisy thing.”

The picture? The man had a bad review on TripAdvisor!


Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

The hot season’s here! The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is in flower! Check the picture of this shrub at Chanters Lodge, Livingstone. Here’s all about it!

Brunfelsia pauciflora

Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow’s flowers are purple when they first bloom. Then over a period of several days they fade through a progression of blues and lavenders until they are pure white – then they turn brown and die (the day after tomorrow?)

The pansy-like flowers have white throats, are about 5 cm across and borne in profuse clusters (cymes, actually) of up to 10 blossoms, displayed all over the plant. Flowers of all three colors are present from spring through the end of summer. Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow gets 3-8 ft (0.9-2.4 m) tall with several stems, an open, airy habit, and a spread of 2-5 ft (0.6-1.5 m). The leaves are leathery and semi-evergreen, 3-6 in (8-16 cm) long, dark green above and pale beneath.

Several cultivars are available: ‘Eximia’ is the most typical form, commonly found in cultivation and usually referred to simply as yesterday-today-and-tomorrow. ‘Floribunda’ is smaller with more abundant flowers, and ‘Macrantha’ has larger flowers and is lacking the white throat.


Hotel Reviews – What’s Your Policy

This from – I’m interested in things to do with hotel reviews:

By Jonathan Barsky and Cindi Frame

Although the hospitality industry is still in the beginning stages of figuring out how to master the exciting potential of social media, it is clear that the role of user-generated reviews is exploding and that consumers are wielding more power. The pace of this change has certainly caught many hotels off guard. A recent survey conducted by Market Metrix and TripAdvisor found that 85% of hotels have no guidelines for monitoring, responding to or acting on guest reviews. Perhaps this lack of direction explains why, according to TripAdvisor, only 4% of negative reviews are responded to!

It’s critical for hotels to regain control and take the appropriate action. Consumers say when a company responds to a review, it puts the company in a favorable light (Compete Inc., 2007). Our own research shows that responding to customer issues can improve a guest’s likelihood to recommend and return by 20% or more. This leads to word-of-mouth referrals which can represent 40% or more of a hotel’s customer mix. If hotels don’t respond, the dynamic of negative feedback can build into a huge wave of consumer defection.

To assist hotels in developing their own approach to handling online reviews, Market Metrix has assembled the following guidelines based on industry “best practices”:

Hotels need to establish a process for tracking new reviews. This begins with assigning one person at your property to monitor online review sites and have accountability to follow up on all reviews. This person should:

– Sign up for emails, alerts and RSS feeds to know when new reviews and scores have changed.
– Monitor the review sites frequently, depending on how often your hotel receives reviews.
– Make sure your hotel is listed on these sites and that your photos, videos and descriptions are up-to-date, accurate and complementary.

Management must clearly establish the hotel’s response policy. Ideally, hotels should respond to all reviews within 24 hours in a personal and professional manner. This demonstrates a hotel’s commitment to listening and acting on guest feedback. If a response is not possible within 24 hours, respond to all negative reviews first.

– If needed, forward negative comments to the appropriate person for assistance in responding and to let them know there is an issue in their department. Determine if and when the GM should be alerted.
– If a review is suspected to be fraudulent, immediately contact the review site to dispute it. If justified, the review will be removed.

In responding to guest reviews, always start by thanking the guest for writing a review. For positive reviews reinforce hotel strengths and invite the guest to return.
Forward positive comments to the appropriate person who can share the feedback with deserving employees. In responding to negative reviews, apologize for their experience, inform them what you will do to address the problem, invite the guest to contact hotel management for resolution and describe (or even post a picture) how the problem was resolved. Make sure to track which reviews have received a response.

Analyze / Improve
User reviews expose the truth of a hotel’s brand. Hotels are now challenged with maintaining high standards and meeting the expectations of customers who have done a significant amount of research before they travel. Guest reviews not only offer hotels a chance for service recovery, they also can uncover opportunities for improvement, driving satisfaction and loyalty, and even reduce operating costs.

Each review should be thoroughly evaluated. Ideally, results from all reviews should be stored in a database with a reporting package available for analysis. Analyze guest reviews to understand trends versus prior periods, identify performance gaps versus relevant competitors, uncover scoring differences among key customer groups, and provide an input for investment decisions. Review site feedback should be combined with your regular guest feedback program to get a full 360.

Based on this analysis, action plans, preferably done at the department level, should be created to address issues, gaps and unfavorable trends. We would also recommend that you:

– Share issues, gaps and trends with appropriate managers.
– Set goals that are measurable.
– Consider tying employee compensation to appropriate guest feedback measures, as long as they are fair and unbiased.

In addition, display positive reviews on your site to show off positive experiences of other guests and to prevent travelers from searching for reviews on other sites. Encourage guests to write reviews – fewer reviews imply a less popular hotel. Encourage guests verbally at check out, on receipts and in communications or emails sent to guests.

More people than ever before are reading hotel reviews prior to booking. Hotels that embrace online reviews and take actions can increase their business. Online reviews can help you connect with your customers, find out what they really want and promote your hotel. This will lead to higher levels of service and confidence in your brand.

Hoteliers please note!

The photo? Samoa – dream on Richard!

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