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!