We all know the past year has been rough, to say the least, as hoteliers have seen the worst slump in decades. Occupancy rates for the first week in October have dipped just under 60% nationwide, which is a 5.4% decrease from the same time last year. Looking at revenue per available room (RevPAR), a decrease of 12% was reported by Smith Travel Research Global, bringing the national average per available room to $59.28. There have been signs of recovery in the hotel industry, however, you can expect to see hotels battling over rates and providing add-ons and value-adds to entice guests to book well into 2010. So what can hoteliers be doing in a slumping economy to help drive bookings and put heads in beds? In an age when consumers are comparing multiple hotels and spending, on average, 4 hours researching before they actually book, how do you make your hotel stand out? Roughly 41% of personal/leisure travelers and 50% of business travelers say hotel reviews influence their purchase decisions. Sounds like hoteliers need to focus on building credibility and trust through guest reviews.
I’m a GM, how do I obtain guest reviews?
There are a number of ways you can bring guest reviews to the attention of the customer without being pushy. Here are some things you and your staff can do to help increase guest reviews.
- Guest check out is the most obvious opportunity. Have your desk staff ask how the guest enjoyed their stay. If it seems like a positive experience, politely ask the guest to leave a review, and give them some options as to which sites to leave a review at.
- Utilize hotel materials to ask for reviews (materials can be at the front desk, in-room, restaurant, bar, etc.)
- Include messaging on the customer bill
There are many more things a hotel can be doing to encourage guest reviews, however, most of this would fall on your hotel’s marketing team.
- Include a form directly on your own website to obtain reviews from customers
- Use logos from credible review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp that link to your hotel’s profile page
- Utilize your database and send a post-stay email asking for a review, and provide links to your hotel’s profile page on review sites to make it as easy as possible to leave a review
- If your hotel participates in social media, and you should be, use your “voice” to ask for reviews from your fans (Facebook) and followers (Twitter)
What about negative reviews?
Working with a number of hotels over the years, I’ve heard General Managers (GMs) pose the question, “Why would I want to invite potential negative reviews for others to see?” There are always going to be negative reviews about a hotel, you can’t always be perfect. Sometimes your front desk staff will have a bad day (and show it) or your cleaning crew will miss a few spots or you unfortunately had a bachelor party over the weekend. Granted the bachelor party isn’t something you can always control, but instances where your staff is rude or slacking, these are things that can be fixed. Reading negative reviews can be the best “research” to help you see what is broken. Your guests are telling you where you failed. If you see trends over a period where the same problems occur, it provides you the opportunity to address the issues and fix them. Don’t fear negative reviews, embrace them. The majority of GMs that are scared of receiving negative reviews are the ones that already know they have problems. My suggestion, get started fixing the problems immediately. Guests will leave reviews no matter, so the sooner you can correct any potential issues, the better off you’ll be.
Obtaining reviews isn’t as hard as some may think, it’s just a matter of encouraging or asking your guests for the review. Properties that are able to attain more reviews on reputable sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Citysearch, and even the Online Travel Agencies like Expedia, Orbitz & Travelocity gain more credibility and trust than hotels that have fewer reviews. When a potential guest sees a negative review, they generally don’t discount your hotel immediately, but if they continue to see the same trends in reviews, you’ve got a problem that needs to be addressed. Reviews are your friends. You can gain a lot of knowledge by listening to your guests. I suggest you do it.