'Wikis and Widgets and Blogs! Oh, My!' - What Web 2.0 Means To Hospitality
By Michael DiLeva Executive Vice President, The IDT Group | January 27, 2012
Isn't it just like that pesky Internet? It snuck up on us hoteliers in the late 90's and just when you've made the last "tweaks" to your rate parity, SEO and channel optimization strategies and are ready to put your feet up on your desk, let out a sigh of relief and go back to "business as usual" (if there is such a thing anymore), along comes Web 2.0 to throw everything into chaos again!
What exactly is Web 2.0? Well, like a lot of things surrounding the Internet, it can have different meanings and encompass a wide range of concepts depending upon your perspective. Generally, however, the term "Web 2.0" refers to the next stage in the evolution of the Internet to shift even more "power" to individual users. You're probably more familiar with Web 2.0 than you realized. Got a page on MySpace, read a movie review on a Blog or looked up something on Wikipedia lately? They're all great examples of Web 2.0 developments and they're just the tip of the iceberg.
As the saying goes, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." And ironically, the impact of Web 2.0 on hospitality resembles the impact the first wave of the Web had on our business. Just as hoteliers oblivious to the Web were shocked in the late 90's when perspective guests stopped calling their 1-800 number and started instead to log on to dot-com intermediary sites, hoteliers who think that managing their reputation means prepping for a site visit from AAA will be equally blind-sided when they find their occupancy declining due to some rather critical comments on Trip Advisor.
Blogs - "Everyone's A Critic."
Of course, we all seek to treat every guest as a VIP. But remember when you knew that you had a property tour planned by a Meeting Planner, a site inspection scheduled by a rating entity field representative or got a tip that the local Food Writer was going to dine in your gourmet room? You'd try just that little bit harder to ensure that everything was just right. Today, thanks to Blogs (personal Web Logs where users provide commentary on subjects of personal interest), every stay by every guest could have that same impact. It's not unlike The Odyssey (think back to that High School English!) where Homer preaches that one should treat everyone equally since you never know when a guest may be a god in disguise. Today it's a real possibility that every guest could be a "critic" with the legitimate ability to significantly influence your business.
How so? Well today there are an estimated 50 million blogs worldwide and the Pew Internet and American Life Project estimated that the "blog population has grown to about 12 million adults" in the United States alone. Considering that the International Telecommunication Union projects the total number of Internet users in the U.S. at 124 million, that means that over 9% of everyone on the Web is actively blogging. To put that in perspective, if you have a 200-room hotel running at 70% occupancy, odds are that 14 guests in your hotel right now have a Blog. And when you consider that bloggers by nature write about their own perspective and experience, it's possible that they could be writing about your property sometime during or following their stay.