Tourism Industry News

For Hotels Online Feedback Counts

04/01/2009 16:30

Christopher Orr, director of sales and marketing at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, admits to surfing the Web at work — and he doesn’t apologize for it. In fact, he regularly shares his findings with the hotel’s management team.


Orr, like all conscientious marketing professionals in the hospitality industry, does his best to monitor his employer’s reputation. Increasingly, that means scrutinizing what customers are saying about it online.


“In the service industry, it comes down to your reputation more than any marketing or advertising effort,” said Orr, who spends up to 30 minutes weekly scanning independent Web sites like to find out what customer reviews reveal about the hotel.


With Baltimore hotels’ occupancy rates down from 71 percent in 2005 to 64 percent, local hoteliers need to be hyper-vigilant about their reputations, especially online. They’re not just monitoring online customer reviews, they’re finding ways to make the most of their Web presence.


Some post positive reviews of their establishments from independent travel Web sites. A few have started blogs. Some advertise directly on travel sites. At the least, hotels are giving their own Web sites a face lift — essential now that travel sites link to hotel pages and most travelers research online before booking.


Evidence shows that online feedback counts. Consider a 2007 survey conducted by market research firm comScore: Of more than 2,000 respondents, 40 percent admitted that reading a positive online review of a hotel swayed them to book it. A 2008 study by Opinion Research Corp. found that 82 percent of online shoppers checked online reviews, blogs and other online customer feedback before making a travel-related purchase.


Some savvy hoteliers aren’t waiting passively for online praise. At the Butcher’s Hill bed and breakfast Blue Door, owner Roger Eberlin asks customers who enjoyed their experience to share their comments online, providing links to B&B directories and Web addresses for independent travel sites. He also encourages guests to post reviews directly on Blue Door’s blog.


The strategy may be working. Though Blue Door hasn’t been open for business a full year, Eberlin said revenue has exceeded his expectations.


Get the full story at: Business Journal



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