Leveraging The Power Of TripAdvisor And The Internet To Compete In A Global Industry

Adrian Loveridge - Hotel Owner

Up until the time of submitting this column, well over 500 major news organisations and publications have reported on the 2012 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice Award winners. Tens of millions of people around the world, among them many that will be making holiday plans will scrutinise the list and finally decide where they feel they can get the very best hotel value for money and level of service delivery.

More astute national, regional and individual city tourism organisations have been quick to link their destination with the awardees, taking full advantage of what amounts to free advertising and promotion.

While our own Government tourism agency has yet to take advantage of this almost unprecedented global exposure, Barbados has done relatively well in a number of categories. 3,943 properties across 30 countries and eight regions have received these coveted awards this year and as their Press Release reiterates, ‘unlike any other hotel honours, TripAdvisor Travelers Choice winners are based on millions of valuable reviews and opinions from travellers around the world’.

For those of you that have not yet read the list, this is how ‘we’ did:

  • Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Caribbean – Sandy Lane #1.
  • Top 25 Bed and Breakfasts and Inns in Caribbean – Bayfield House #5 and Sweetfield Manor – #24.
  • Top 25 Hotels for Service in Caribbean – Little Arches Boutique Hotel #23.
  • Top 25 Trendiest Hotels in Caribbean – Silver Point #13 The House #23.
  • Top 25 Relaxation/Spa Hotels In Caribbean – Sugar Cane #2 – Waves #5 – Sandy Lane #15.
  • Top 25 Bargain Hotels in Caribbean – Southern Surf Beach Apartments #8 – Peach and Quiet #9.

Sadly, no Barbados property was listed in either the 25 Top overall Hotels in the Caribbean or all-inclusive categories, and this must concern our tourism planners considering the prevalence of all-inclusive rooms when equating it to our total accommodation stock.

We, in my humble opinion are very fortunate to have a lodging product for the majority of our potential visitors and this is graphically reflected in the awards. There will always be a market for a luxury offering, recession or no recession.

At the same time many guests have grown over the years to prefer smaller intimate properties. Value-for-money continues to be a critical factor and it goes perhaps without saying, that overall service delivery is just as vital at all levels.

An interesting component was the average nightly rate of the near 4,000 properties who won is US$270 and 45 per cent have a nightly rate of US$200 or less. This the reality of competing in tourism on a worldwide stage.

One thing for sure, TripAdvisor or any similar site that could replace it is not going to vanish or dissipate into the upper atmosphere. We, whether in the private or public sector ignore the largest travel community in the world at our peril. By embracing and finding creative ways to more effectively use it we can generate greater occupancy levels and revenue.

Each month TripAdvisor advises individual hotels the actual number of views made to their page. In December 3,328 logged on to ours and that perhaps is partially why we are responding to an average hundred email requests daily.

53 comments

  • Very Interesting…

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  • Interesting comment by former minister of tourism Lynch on the talk show yesterday. He suggested government’s position is flawed by trying to develop the Brazil tourist market. He offered that we should have thrown the resources into the UK which is our key market in terms of long stay and spend. Agree?

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  • Personally I do not agree. Brazil and South America was too big to continue ignoring. However, a lot more has to be done to stimulate the Sao Paulo flight and I have been reallly suprised that more has not happened with trade links and use of the aircraft for freight.

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  • We can only speculate if what Lynch is saying is political rhetoric. When all is said and done there is no mention by him of how his government proposes to leverage the power of the Internet e.g. FB, Tripadvisor etc

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  • So as usual the windbag is talking a lot but saying nothing.

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  • How about leveraging the power of good clean hotels and beaches, good food, courteous pleasant staff and overall excellent service?

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  • Hants,

    You have completely lost me here. Isn’t that what we are talking about. Recognising the hotels that do excel rather than ignore them.

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  • @Hants

    You need to recognize the separation of product and marketing.

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  • maybe i am wrong but i thought that trip advisor was geared to promoting Hotels that were part of their membership.so how does it help with the BTA isn’t the BTA government, i failed to see the connection of blaming BTA for not leverging with Trip Advisor if Trip advisor is promotion of the Hotel by membership and management.

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  • @ac

    Tripadvisor is a realtime customer feedback channel which tells how people feel about your product. There is nothing more important than getting feedback and then acting on it!

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  • ac,

    humour me for a minute and GOOGLE “TripAdvisor 2012 Travelers Choice Awards’ and see just how many national, regional and local tourism marketing agencies have leveraged destination media coverage from the awardeees.
    To the best of my knowledge TripAdvsor doesn’t own ANY hotels and individial properties do NOT have to join or pay anything.
    Ratings and awards are based on actual guest stay reviews.

    This is all about siezing maximum media coverage at minimum cost or in this case, no cost whatsoever. You give the impression that you think its better to throw $4 million at people without anayalsing how cost effective that ‘investment’ is.

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  • Adrian i do not give the impression of anything.but since you implied so i might go further and question why should the BTA promote private hotels.i think if all that you said is good about Tripadvisor the coporation should jump at the opportunity to promote its brand. BTW i have visited their website and there is a fee to become a member

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  • Look i am aware of what Tripadvisor do. but the promotion of a Hotel by which avenue they take is entirely up to the management and should not be thrown in the lap of government .Period.ihave used trip advisor on occasion to levy bad experience with a hotel however if the governent had given self promotionof that hotel i would have made government look bad.

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  • ac,
    ‘not be thrown in the lap of Government’

    What happened with GEMS (Hotels and Resorts Ltd) then?

    To repeat, we have never paid any fees to TripAdvisor.

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  • Maybe if you adrian refer to their FAQ the question of membership fees would be answered however in theBBC news and other business news related media Trip adviser has been citied today for faulty advertising postings and have been asked by the ASA to review and make honest and trustworthy changes to their review. For what it is worth you need to go on their website and read about it maybe you would have a change of heart as to wether the government should get involved with them

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  • ac,

    TripAdvisor website – ‘TripAdvisor membership and our TripWatch newsletter are COMPLETELY FREE’.

    Its not TripAdvisor that is creating the problems, it is bogus reviews, or simply put, people cheating.

    YES! Its so easy to make excuses and do nothing and continue to ignore 50 MILLION unique website visitors per MONTH.

    But of course Barbados doesn’t need the business, do we?

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  • If former Chairman Ralph Taylor had paid some attention to feedback from TripAdvisor Almond would not be in the soup it finds itself.

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  • David,

    Don’t forget he described TripAdvisor as a ‘menace’ while addressing a group of travel agents and tour operators.

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  • @Adrian

    It shows how out of step many of our tourism planners and managers are with the reality of the market place.

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  • why would anybody want their government farther less themselves to be associated with an organisation that being Travel Advisor which as of Today has been cited for fraudulent practices and deception is beyond my comprehesion. the story in the Financial Times and BBC paints a picture of an organisation that is scandalous . When a person reads a review and a country name is attached as a voucher for that Hotel and the review is misleading to the customer not only does the hotel losses its reputation but also the government .Most of those organisations give favourable reviews to the Hotels which support them. once in a while they would tout small hotel not as to seen to be biased but in the long run it is the the goliaths ofthe hotel Industry with big bucks that are given preferential treatment.

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  • Rate This,

    You clearly do not understand what you are saying (with respect).
    It is NOT TripAdvisor that is posting fake reviews. It is a greedy cheating few.
    As to ‘goliaths of the hotel industry’. Look at Barbados as an example. Almost ALL the top rated properties are SMALL hands-on managed hotels.
    Then look at Almond and you will see that up to 40 per cent of the reviewers would NOT recommend their properties.
    I know our Government should only associate themselves with blue chip, ethicallly expedient organisations like 3S, Veco and property developers that have been described as the greatest Ponzi scheme in the UK.

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  • Adrian are you saying tha Trip Advisor does not have any responsibilty for the fraudenlt.reviews attached to their name as reported in tbe BBc Uk news.I After all Trip ADvisor was The one cited as the headline clearly stated.so shouldn’t TripAdvisor be the one shouldering the responsibility even though you would want one to believe that the reviewrs made the claim.undependent of Trip Advisor .

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  • ac,

    It is largely down to individual hotels to monitor their TripAdvisor site.
    We so far, have had 4 bogus reviews and have disputed all of them with TripAdvisor. 3 of them were removed by TA after investigation.
    It is not a perfect system but its there and we ignore it at our peril.

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  • for those interested in reading the report can visit the bbc uk technology website,

    http:/ /www. bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16823012

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  • TripAdvisor largely reflect honest feedback from customers, in the cases where some abuse it can be ferreted out with the help of TripAdvisor. Just like BU it is self regulating.

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  • and if TRip Advisor was fretting out the abuse which apparant they were not/ several complaints would not have been lodged against them .Now the word “Honest” would be replaced by “misleadsing and false advertising in the publics mind. Perception is everything.. .

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  • Abusive comments can only be dealt with if the hotels etc monitor Tripadvisor and act as adrian suggested. It is not in Tripadvisors interest to ignore. You can have the last word.

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  • I always consult TripAdvisor when looking for a hotel. I find the feedback very helpful. Nothing is perfect but at least customers can say how they feel about where they have stayed and spent their money. It is a pity this type of customer feedback is not available to Barbados consumers on Barbados Businesses. If it were allowed, the law courts will probably be jammed with businesses bringing law suits against former customers.

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  • the complaints lodge had nothing to do with “abusive comments” but the standard practicing of its reviews of false and misleading claims showing favourabilty to some hotels that were untrue. However it is further proof why BTA should avoid them like the plague

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  • ac,

    you don’t seem to understand it is not TripAdvisor making the reviews, so why should anyone, especially the BTA avoid them?
    Every guest has the right to question a review and challenge it if they believe that it is NOT factual.

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  • @ac

    You can have the last word …lol.

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  • Ok so the employees or representatives of trip advisor adrian dancing around the obvious is not going to change the fact that it was Trip advisorwho was cited by theASAforfake reviews and not their agents or representatives

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  • ac,

    how could they cite their agents or representatives (the reviewers) as they do not know who they are!
    TripAdvisor has the resposible of ensuring the system is as fair as possible but if certain members of the public or other vested interests decide to lie, what more can they do about it.
    Its another case of shooting the messenger rather than looking at the messages and possible benefits.

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  • @AL: “TripAdvisor has the resposible of ensuring the system is as fair as possible but if certain members of the public or other vested interests decide to lie, what more can they do about it.

    Oh, come on Adrian. Get with the modern program…

    Anonyomous submissions include the risk of disporportante representation of opinon by way of spiders and low paid humans (and other means).

    SlashDot.org (http://slashdot.org) et al solved this problem more than ten years ago; and yet we still face it…

    Hmmmm….

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  • Quote Adrian”What more can they do”

    They can easily with their resources put in a tiered system which let the customer knows the review has been authenticated.
    Those are the opinions of the ASA. not ac opinions

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  • According to TravelSupermarket Travel Trends Tracker only 11 per cent of Brits book their holiday through a high street travel agent.

    ’40 per cent will use review sites (like TripAdvisor) to get opions of other travellers’.

    As I said, we ignore TripAdvisor at our peril.

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  • @Adrian

    And now that Trip advisor has lost its credibilty i bet they would be looking else where. BTW this opens an opportunity for YOU to start an Advisory in the Travel Business that i would suggest BTA take full advantage. it was nice engaging with you. my point being that the public deserves to be given the truth and honesty no matter how much it costs to be delivered

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  • The link adrian referred:

    03 February 2012
    11% of Brits book their holiday with high street agent

    Just 11% of Brits will be visiting a travel agent in person to book their 2012 holiday, according to a report by TravelSupermarket.

    When it comes to booking their main summer holiday, 31% book through an online travel agent, 20% through an online tour operator and 15% through an online price comparison site.

    Another 14% of the 5,000 Brits surveyed said they would book over the telephone.

    When it comes to researching their trip, the poll found 12% would be calling in to see their high street agent to book their holiday this year.

    Instead, 52% will use internet search engines as their first port of call for holiday research, 40% will use review sites to get the opinions of other travelers, and 37% said they would be visiting travel agents’ websites to plan their dream break.

    Bob Atkinson, travel expert from TravelSupermarket commented: “The switch to online for our holiday planning – whether to research or book – has been one of the most noticeable changes in travel over the last few years and appears to be continuing.

    “The internet makes researching our holiday so much easier. Review sites are growing in popularity as holidaymakers trust the opinion of their peers, plus as Brits get savvier about finding the best price on their holidays they are using the internet to compare prices to get the best deal.”

    Spain is set to lead the way this year with 11% of Brits already planning on heading there for their main break, followed by Italy (3%) and Portugal (2%).

    The findings were taken from the TravelSupermarket Travel Trends Tracker, due to be published later this month.

    by Bev Fearis

    http://www.travelmole.com/news_feature.php?news_id=2000184#shares

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  • thats why truth in advertising is so important because with the growing need for fast information the public wants to be assured that their money would be well spent and not be disappointed when they reach a destination or purchase a product it was not all that it was said to be.

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  • ac,

    Nice to converse with you too. Certainly agree that the public have a right to expect the truth and honesty no matter what it costs to deliver.
    I have never intended to indicate that TripAdvisor is perfect as we have had our own issues with them. But I think its better to work with what you have and take full advantage of it.

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  • Peach and Quiet has 140 reviews posted on TripAdvisor. Does the hotel urge guests to visit TripAdvisor and post comments? If so, does the hotel do this for all guests or only ones who they believe will have something good to say?

    And even if the owners of Peach and Quiet can convince us that there is no bias in their reviews, can we assume the same of the other hotels?

    I think it would be a bit risky I think for the BTA to promote the hotels that have the top ratings on TripAdvisor.

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  • Brutus,

    We never ask guests to post reviews, but I understand some hotels do.
    We tend not to have (comparitively) a lot of new reviews because the majority of our guests are repeat. For example, we are currently full and of the 42 persons staying with us, 40 have stayed before.
    Why on earth would the BTA not want to tell the world that Sandy Lane was rated NUMBER ONE of Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Caribbean by the actual guests that stay with them?

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  • All is not lost at the BTA.

    Nationnews today. Brazilian Mag. Marie Clare photo shoot in Barbados.

    sweeeeeeeet!

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  • @Adrian Loveridge – so was the rating for Peach and Quiet based on the 20 reviews on TripAdvisor during 2011, the 10 reviews so far for 2012, or the 140 reviews in total? You seem to be doing quite well on TripAdvisor so far for this year by the way – suspicious, but excellent!

    Note – Sandy Lane was only rated NUMBER ONE of Top 25 Luxury Hotels in Caribbean by the actual guests who stayed with them and chose to post on TripAdvisor. I am not sure how much this really tells us but it is good advertising for TripAdvisor and for Sandy Lane. The BTA would have to do it more scientifically.

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  • I count 60 reviews on TripAdvisor for Sandy Lane dated in 2011. Not bad, but how many reviews did the other Caribbean hotels in that class have? Is Sandy Lane better than hotels which had no reviews over that period? How many reviews must a hotel have to make the list? Is the list for 2011 or for some other period? Where is all of this explained?

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  • Here is another local company getting a good review on TripAdvisor.

    Whether we like it or not millions of potential travellers check this site before making a decision.

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  • the problem with organisations such as TRip Advisor is that the idea is a good one that works for a while but afterwards it starts to look like a scam because the people doing the reviews can be any or any body even family members or friends of the hotel no one knows for sure or can verify who are writing the reviews and for a government to lend its name on such a is asking for trouble Let the individual hotels do what they have to to promote their business on such websites but fuh goodness sake leave the government out of endorsing it,.

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  • @ac: “the problem with organisations such as TRip Advisor is that the idea is a good one that works for a while but afterwards it starts to look like a scam because the people doing the reviews can be any or any body even family members or friends of the hotel no one knows for sure or can verify who are writing the reviews and for a government to lend its name on such a is asking for trouble

    Kinda like Blogs. Eh?

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  • CH
    NOPE ! we as individuals on the blogs are not selling or endorsing any thing.

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  • @ac: “we as individuals on the blogs are not selling or endorsing any thing.

    Our simple presence re-enforces the Blogs’ presence.

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  • CH

    Quote”Our simple presence re-enforces the Blogs presence:’

    But it doesn’t necessarliy means we endorse the blog as a matter of we might be “using ” the blog as well as the blog “using us.

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  • correction on the above commentshould be “as a matter of fact”

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  • @ac: “But it doesn’t necessarliy means we endorse the blog as a matter of fact we might be “using ” the blog as well as the blog “using us.

    Good point.

    Like

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