The Upside and Pitfalls of User Reviews on Your Own Website

By Rob Kall President, Bookt LLC | May 10, 2012

Online travel reviews are nothing new; they have existed in one way or another for over 10 years and many of the most popular travel sites allow users to post reviews. In fact, sites without user reviews may become less common over the next few years, as consumers rely more heavily on others' experiences before making a decision.

So here is a question for you: if you are not displaying your customers' experiences on your property's site, what's holding you back? I know, you're probably thinking: 'but what if I have a bad review on my site?' and it's a valid concern because at some point, no matter how good your hotel is, someone somewhere will have something negative to say. You can't be all things to everyone all of the time. Let's explain and analyze the pros and cons of posting consumers' reviews of your property on your own website.

Why are Reviews Popular?

We humans are social beings and our behavior is, to a very large extent, influenced by other people's actions and opinions. We also want to make an impact in some way and be influencers of others' actions, so it makes perfect sense that we would spend time writing reviews - and especially if our experience has drawn out passionately positive or negative feelings. According to Market Metrix Hospitality Index, approximately 10% of hotel guests post reviews about their experiences. For some, it is a way to vent about their less than stellar experience at a property. For others, it's a way to spread the word of a special experience. Either way, these reviews provide important information that potential guests will trust and value, and of course, influence their booking decisions.

The Transparency Revolution

Transparency and accountability - you hear those words everywhere and through the miracle of today's technology, transparent information is more available than ever. That said, in the eyes of consumers, not being transparent can equate to being shady and unresponsive. You know that saying 'honesty pays'? In the case of online reviews, this is very true. Being upfront and honest translates to more trust and eventually more sales.

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The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.