Well, there have been rumblings about it for some time, but now it’s official. TripAdvisor – originally just a review site – is turning into a booking website, where travellers can check live rates and availability from all the usual suspects (Booking.com, LateRooms, Expedia), as well as from B&Bs themselves. The first adverts proclaiming this change will be appearing on TV soon.
It may sound scary, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you have an online booking system that can link to TripAdvisor, it may even represent a big boost to your bed and breakfast business.
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.
One of the issues we return to time and again on theBandBer is online reviews. They’ve come to dominate the thoughts of many accommodation providers. The good ones give you a warm glow. The bad ones keep you awake at night. The fake ones send you into a rage.
When we first started covering this topic, there was relatively little good, consistent advice out there on how best to respond to feedback on review sites like TripAdvisor and various social media channels. With this in mind, we’ve frequently tried to offer helpful tips ourselves, in order to bring some clarity to the issue.
You may remember us mentioning a while back that the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency ordered TripAdvisor to remove the phrase “reviews you can trust” from its homepage. After many frustrating years for hotel and B&B owners, the issue of authenticity does seem to be getting more mainstream attention.
Now, one of the largest hotel companies in the world is taking matters into its own hands, by verifying all (unmediated) reviews on its own sites against a database of actual bookings.
A former hotelier and now a specialist in online reputation management, Daniel Edward Craig is always astute and articulate. In a recent guest article for Hospitality.net, he raised the interesting issue of whether or not coming first in your local area on TripAdvisor is necessarily always a good thing. It could, of course, mean that your B&B is – like Mary Poppins – practically perfect in every way. But it might also mean that it’s… well, a bit too much of a bargain.
In what may be described as a very qualified victory, a B&B owner in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides has won the right to sue TripAdvisor in his native country for allegedly publishing fake reviews.
Back in August, it was reported that Richard Gollin, owner of the Baile na Cille B&B on the Isle of Lewis, had launched a small claims action at Stornoway Sheriff Court over what he said were ‘false and malicious’ criticisms. Mr Gollin claimed that these ‘fake’ criticisms had cost him valuable bookings of around £2,000 and that TripAdvisor had ignored him when he asked it to remove some postings. The guesthouse, officially rated on TripAdvisor as “#1 of 1 Timsgarry B&B and Inns” in Timsgarry, Lewis, currently has 58 reviews, 37 of which rate it as “excellent.”
Back in 2010, a UK reputation management firm called Kwikchex launched a campaign against TripAdvisor for publishing allegedly libellous anonymous reviews about hotels. In particular, it has been working with the Advertising Standards Agency to demonstrate how unverified reviews sites can be abused. However Tennessee judge recently ruled that there was no defamation caused by TripAdvisor including the Grand Resort, Pigeon Forge on its 2011 “Dirtiest Hotels” list: “It does not appear to the Court that a reasonable person could believe that TripAdvisor’s article reflected anything more than the opinions of TripAdvisor’s millions of online users.”
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:
In our latest guest blog, Adrian Brown, owner of the Old Rectory of St James B&B in Telford, tells us how getting the most out of TripAdvisor brought success to his property within a year.
“Love it or hate it, we decided to make the most of Trip Advisor (TA) to help our business without paying them a penny, cent or groat. To be clear, this is not an endorsement of TA and it may not be right for you; it is a short account of what it did for us.
September 2010: The Old Rectory was ours and we promptly shut the doors and started much needed repairs and improvements. The house speaks for itself and had been much loved by the previous owner; it just needed a cash injection, which of course has to be recouped!
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.