Wednesday, 15 July 2009

TripAdvisor - Good or Bad?

We saw this article a few days ago on Hospitality eBusiness and thought it would be worth publishing from a Scottish perspective particualrly as VisitScotland are still swithering on whether their formal links with the national tourism portal is indeed good or bad for business.
First of all here's the position as stated by website.

"As part of our ongoing commitment to improving customer experience online - and increasing sales of tourism product as a result – is teaming up with TripAdvisor, the world’s number one travel review website to provide independent feedback on Scotland’s hotels."

It goes on to state;

"TripAdvisor will provide reviews from real travellers of almost 1000 accommodation providers across Scotland who currently offer online booking. We believe the real benefit of this will be seen in terms of increased bookings for participating accommodation. Unbiased user-generated reviews have been proven to turn lookers into bookers by using the trust consumers place on the opinions of travellers like themselves."

Hotel eBusiness' article looked at the pros and cons of:
  1. Creating a link on the hotel website to the customer reviews page of the hotel on TripAdvisor

  2. Displaying TripAdvisor reviews directly on the hotel website via the TripAdvisor Review Widget
They have always recommended against both of these options explaining why.

Creating a link on the hotel website to the customer reviews page of the hotel on TripAdvisor.

"Have you looked at your property page and your customer reviews on TripAdvisor lately? Have you noticed that the page is full of advertisements by all the major online travel agencies, all the major hotel brands, and many of your competitors?"

You can see what they mean... Have a look at the VisitScotland Trip Advisor for The Marine Hotel in Troon as an example.

It not only gives the hotel reviews but offers rates from various sources, list competitor hotels and runs sponsored ads down the right hand side. "By linking from your hotel website to TripAdvisor you are actively encouraging your potential customers to book with the OTAs or someone else."

Current wisdom is that hotels should be increasing their own direct bookings through their own websites. Tripadvisor certainly cannot always be seen to be complementary to this goal - why push your clients from your website to a third party distributor?

It can be extremely expensive nowadays to bring visitors to your website whether through paid search, website development, SEO, hosting, email marketing, analytics, or any of the social web tools and you would not want to lose them that easily by sending them out of your site to another supplier to whom you're then paying a commission or booking fee

Displaying TripAdvisor reviews directly on the hotel website via the TripAdvisor Review Widget

The TripAdvisor Review Widget is placed on the hotel website by uploading a special TripAdvisor code that “pushes” live customer reviews from TripAdvisor - in some ways this very similar to what is on the VisitScotland website. TripAdvisor promotes this as ‘friendlier’ than the above above because the hotel website visitors do not have to leave the site, and therefore will not be exposed to advertising by the OTAs and competitors - however if you click view all reviews you will be taken out.

The issue of Lack of Control over Customer Reviews is also addressed In the author's opinion, "No hotel will ever publish a negative customer review on its website. Having TripAdvisor push live customer reviews to the hotel website creates the very real threat that negative reviews will appear on the hotel website as soon as they are posted on TripAdvisor. How do you control that?"

We would disagree that accommodation providers will neverpost negative reviews; honestly made negative comments can play a positive role in hotel's website marketing if they are addressed and replied to stating how the situation has been resolved. nothing but positive reviews can be seen as a little false and too comfortable.

Booking engine Bookassist offer their hoteliers the chance to publish guest reveiws and reply to them directly in their own website. It can be made to work

"However there is no way that you can filter out negative reviews with this TripAdvisor Review Widget and there is no doubt that when the competition discovers that you feature “live” customer reviews from TripAdvisor on your website, they can betempted to write a fake negative review about your hotel themselves."

The final paragraph of the article certainly pulls no punches!

"The industry in general should not contribute to the expansion of monopolistic customer review depositories like TripAdvisor. This site already has more than 30 million unique visitors every month. It already has a big chunk of the marketplace. Its closest competitor has only 5 million visitors a month."

Our opinion?

VisitScotland should not be using TripAdvisor on its site. Full stop. Period.

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