This may sound at the moment like one of those obscure tech stories only of interest to geeks. But given that so many properties are now reviewed on TripAdvisor, irrespective of size or type, it could have far reaching implications for everyone, from huge chain hotels to tiny B&Bs.
In news that surprised few commentators in the tourism industry, TripAdvisor has finally announced that it’s introducing a test version of “metasearch” for its users. This new service will cover both desktop and mobile versions of the site.
As reported by EyeForTravel, there was a big marketing, mobile and social media conference (read: digital bun fight) held in Amsterdam the other day. Attendees included four of the world’s biggest travel brands: Disney, KLM, Expedia and the Wyndham hotel group. They talked about how to get customers to your website and how to encourage them to book direct with you. Some of what they said was couched in the usual dismal marketing-speak (e.g. your website should be “platform and browser agnostic”, which just means that it should work on mobiles and different types of browser, like Firefox and Chrome.)
Like most visual aspects of life, a bed and breakfast’s website is very much a personal thing. That said, there are certain practical additions that are absolutely necessary to ensure you give yourself the best chance of getting extra bookings. Here are a few strategies that – if done well – can make a real difference.
1. Great images help your customers relate to your B&B. These are so important it’s worth considering getting them done professionally. Start by identifying what customers like or love about your property and then try to capture that in images. For example, make a note if you really want to show a particular aspect of your property or area that is seasonal: it could be bluebells, a certain shrub in full flower or the autumn leaves in woodland nearby. Never underestimate the power of these images as they really speak to us on a deeper emotional level.
There’s an interesting new article on EyeForTravel about the methods accommodation owners are using to keep customers on their own sites and prevent them gravitating away to OTA sites like Booking.com and review sites like TripAdvisor. It may be focused on hotel groups, but its lessons are equally applicable to B&Bs:
As well as having a very cool name, former Canadian hotel manager (and novelist!) Daniel Edward Craig is an always-astute observer of the hospitality business. Though he focuses more on hotels than B&Bs, much of what he has to say about online marketing is relevant to both.
In a recent blog post, Craig asks how exactly to measure the ROI (Return On Investment) of social media activity on sites like Twitter & Facebook – without indulging in the wild, unsubstantiated claims of self-styled social media “gurus”.
Hospitality website HotelNewsNow has been reporting on the impressively titled “Hotel Data Conference” in Tennessee. At a session about social media, a panel of experts had some interesting things to say about how accommodation owners should ideally engage with their guests online. Many of their points will be obvious to BandBers, but some are worth reiterating.
As reported by Travel Daily News, TripAdvisor is launching a free widget that allows (or “empowers” as they say in their press release) accommodation owners to collect reviews through their own websites to be published on TripAdvisor. In other words, guests can now post reviews of a property directly to TripAdvisor without having to actually go to TripAdvisor itself. It certainly sounds convenient, though it could equally be the first step in shifting responsibility away from TripAdvisor itself and onto property owners for the authenticity of reviews (no one else seems to have picked up on this so far.)
Online reviews have had an incalculable impact on the travel business, that much is certain. Whether you’re the GM of a chain hotel or the owner of a B&B, you can’t afford to ignore them. When they’re good, they can act as a morale booster and a valuable “billboard” for your property on sites like TripAdvisor. When they’re fake or malicious they can cause you many sleepless nights. We’ve mentioned in the past that while it’s wrong to try and ‘game’ the system, there’s nothing wrong with asking guests who have genuinely enjoyed their stay to write a review when they return home.
Love it or hate it, TripAdvisor has certainly been at the forefront of many accommodation owners’ minds for some time now. Every B&B owner knows the joyous feeling that comes from getting a great review and the misery of getting a bad one – particularly if they suspect it is malicious or fake.
But TripAdvisor can only keep growing – and becoming more and more influential – if it can keep generating bigger and bigger profits. According to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, its shares plunged as much as 24% after second-quarter revenue didn’t live up to analysts’ expectations. As Bloomberg observes, “The company is facing headwinds from the sputtering economy and the credit crisis in Europe, which has crimped consumer spending.”
Anyone who has ever searched for anything online knows how good Wikipedia is at dominating search results. So the news that the Wikimedia foundation, which owns and manages Wikipedia, is planning to start an ad-free travel guide is pretty significant for anyone interested in travel or hospitality. Will it soon represent a challenge to TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet?