What Benefits for Small Hotels, Inns or B&B’s offer Tripadvisor Guest Reviews?

TripAdvisor
The sheer numbers
I’ve not paid a lot attention to my own hotel’s guest reviews until recently.

First of all not many guests write in the good old paper guest book. Maybe 1 out of 10 to 1 out of 8 is my guess. Less guests are inclined to put their findings on an internet site. So by nature the small hotel / B&B has a disadvantage.

Would lovers of small hotels and B&B’s turn to large sites for reviews?
Although I am not hesitant to chalk my findings in a blog, I do not often file guest reviews on sites like Tripadvisor, Booking or similar sites. I do understand that many people are naturally reluctant to become personal on the world wide web. So although Tripadvisor has collected many reviews over the years, such reviews are far from complete. Especially for the small hotels and B&B’s who fail to get many reviews by the low number of their guests.

It is my feeling that even if you are inclined to look up guest reviews, the frequent visitors and fans of small hotels and B&B’s are not so likely to use Tripadvisor, as they know the small hotels and B&B’s are not easily findable on mega sites like Tripadvisor.

The possible abuse by hotels
Although Strictly Forbidden, it is clear from various comments over the internet that Tripadvisor reviews are from time to time manipulated by hotels or parties closely relating to hotels. Recently it has become public knowledge that Tripadvisor sometimes puts red flags by reviews that appear too advantageous or disadvantageous to be true.
The Asociated Press had an article on Tripadvisor putting warning signs at guest reviews.

Tripadvisor monitoring of reviews
It does seem that Tripadvisor monitors reviews before they are published. As per my recent attention I had asked a couple of guests if they would like to write a tripadvisor review about my hotel. They did so, but several reported back that apparently they couldn’t get their reviews published despite reclamations to the Tripadvisor helpdesk. Thanks to the kind help via their twitteraccount they were able to dig the reviews up from their servers’ vaults. It turns out that there is a time lag between someone filing a review and Tripadvisor publishing it.

The ownership and alliances of Tripadvisor
Expedia owns Tripadvisor and Tripadvisor collaborates with a number of OTA’s. That’s one of the reasons reviews at Tripadvisor pull people away from your small hotel site and induces them to book your small hotel via one of the OTA’s. But then you face another problem as small hotel/B&B: If you do not have a central repository with your room inventory from which the OTA’s can book you, you’ll be at loss. OTA’s want numbers as well. They induce you to give them as much of your inventory as possible, or refuse you. If you give them each your total availability without a central inventory of available rooms you will find yourself busy the whole day disc jockeying several OTA sites to open and close room availability. An other solution is you minimize the number of rooms you put available to one or another OTA, but then you are not advertising yourself, as most OTA’s don’t show your accommodation if there is no availability. It doesn’t seem to help if you are in the Tripadvisor B&B section, because there are hardly accommodations there. Maybe their experience in the new field of vacation rentals (appartments and villas) will help to cure the problems the small hotel owners are facing.

Mixed Feelings
From the above it follows that I have mixed feelings about Tripadvisor, even if every marketing guru will loudly claim that you have to have guest reviews. In principle it can help to make a small hotel findable. However it also can make a small hotel feel extremely small viz a viz the large chains of hotels.

An afterthought
Oh yes and when the lost reviews were up finally, we rose from position 14 to position 3 in The Hague. That triggers another observation: The Tripadvisor algorithm sees to it that older reviews are less influential than the newer ones. That works to both sides: A new highly acclaimed accommodation can get number one position with just one glorious review. I have had the honor myself in the past. The longer Tripadvisor publishes reviews of your establishment, the heavier your glorious past becomes:-)

You may have seen this post change over time…That is because it happened again: I pressed the publish button too early (-:

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8 Responses to What Benefits for Small Hotels, Inns or B&B’s offer Tripadvisor Guest Reviews?

  1. A good posting happy hotelier, although a few times I was getting really anxious to talk back:
    - Tripadvisor should be considered as only one outlet in your marketing, but as one that is considered by future guests as a very good source of information because other guests (rather than marketing people) write about their experience
    - The number of guests say little about the number of reviews. It is about inviting guests to write about their experience. I can’t believe that I see so little interest among hoteliers and restaurant owners for this. It is FREE publicity, and one that other people value much much more than what you or your marketing agency come up with.
    - People do not go to Tripadvisor most of the time, they Google your hotel, and tripadvisor shows up (like others).
    - Thank God that Tripadvisor is moderating reviews, that keeps it clean.
    - Not wanting to be listed because Tripadvisor works with big OTA’s is in my opinion a very bad advice to others. Think of Tripadvisor of a way to retract new customers. If they like it pursue that they book directly (in return for ….?)
    - Last but not least: giving guests a chance to book. In these days there is NO excuse for not being able to be booked online. Even if you only show fake allotments, and do part of the reservation in real time, you miss out on business if you don’t. For the more serious hoteliers channel management and active yield management will improve their results. Price discrimination is the future without a doubt.

  2. You raise some very good points here, Guido – and I wanted to think them over a bit before leaving a comment.

    As you experienced, the owners of luxury suites and B&Bs often encounter problems when guests try to write reviews. I know TripAdvisor flags reviews that contain obscure details…thinking they are fake. But in fact, many of them are legitimate – the owner just knows their guests better and may have taken the time to point out the little details of the property.

    Perhaps the biggest advantage I see for small hotels in TripAdvisor is the increased visibility the site provides. The better your ranking is on sites like this, the easier it is for people to find you. Once they know the name of your hotel, they can look for more information about you online.

    I think that’s the best reason smaller properties should be on TripAdvisor – it’s not all about the reviews.

  3. @Martijn and @Josiah

    I really appreciate your input.

    Alas this post was a bit prematurely published. There are many thoughts doing the rounds in Travel Blog county about Tripadvisor Reviews and originally I wanted to make a summary first and then talk about my own experience.

    Notwithstanding that, I do believe one should think about this: Tripadvisor reviews are likely to pull away potential guests from a small hotel’s site and push them in the arms of the OTA’s who according to a recent post from Josiah are hijacking direct sales from small hotels, inns and B&B ‘s direct sales. Especially when you are like me operating in a niche market and do not want to join the rat race of low rates. By nature OTA’s are looking for volume = low rates. You will hardly generate reservations from OTA’s …. just today someone tweeted this blog post that more eloquently than I offers the same view: The Tripadvisor Review Widget on the Hotel Website a Good or Bad Move?

  4. Nice post happy hotelier! It´s always a hard decison for small hotels. OTA´s really look for low rates, and it could be a problema during high seasons. We must find the balance for our business…
    Congrats!

  5. @Guido – interesting concept of TripAdvisor pulling away guest bookings to OTAs, which want high volume and low rates.

    It’s too bad there wasn’t a (popular) completely independent guest review site that wasn’t affiliated with OTAs. TripAdvisor serves a needed role in the travel industry, but for niche luxury operators such as yourself, there are significant drawbacks.

    Perhaps the best strategy is to publish guest feedback directly on your own website? That way, visitors see real feedback, but they’re not tempted to leave your site.

  6. Excellent post and interesting opinion. We’re about to launch a new etourism startup with a unique concept that we’ve called : TripSourcing. For hotelier and tourism attractions the name say it all ! We think that tripadvisor problem and other online reviews guides will be solved with our innovation, but we need their reviews to get to the top and reinvent travel itinerary planification.

    Congrats!

  7. As the hotel distribution landscape who is a multicanal market, the hotel reviews landscape is becoming multicanal with lot of players.
    TripAdvisor is one of them…

    Most of the players are only interested by the SEO strategy game with their reviews pages added every days for free by the Internet guys (UGC).

    And in fact, most of them didn’t care about hotels. Hotels are just the primary free ressources to make business cash !!!

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