Top Tips for Getting More Online Hotel Reviews

Despite the constant evolution of online marketing and distribution platforms and social media, online reviews remain so important. According to recent research, a total of 92 percent of leisure travelers in the U.S. consider online hotel reviews “somewhat important” or “very important” when choosing a hotel. Recent changes to how Google reviews are displayed on hotel pages within Google demonstrate the weight of reviews on the consumer’s decision-making process when looking for a place to stay.

Now when travelers “google” accommodation and click on a property within Google’s Hotel Finder results they will find a separate “Reviews” tab for the hotel that offers the ability to filter, sort and search reviews, and also pulls reviews in from other online sources like TripAdvisor and Booking.com, in addition to reviews from Google users. These changes have resulted in a more comprehensive and efficient review resource that helps consumers make well-informed decisions.

In our increasingly digital world, online reviews are more important than ever. Google’s recent enhancements to its reviews feature should serve as a reminder to lodging operators that reviews do matter—a lot. If chatter about your property has been a bit quiet online lately, here are our top tips for getting more reviews.

Ask at Check-out

There’s nothing wrong with asking guests for reviews face to face. You probably already ask departing guests if they enjoyed their stay—if they did, follow up with something genuine and light like, “That’s good to hear! If you have a spare few minutes sometime in the next few days, we’d love it if you could leave us a review online on [your preferred review channel].” Most guests will appreciate the opportunity to do something nice for your business if they had an enjoyable stay.  

You can ask guests for reviews in more subtle ways too, like including your review profiles on business cards or a small sign placed at the front desk. Include a message at the bottom of check-out receipts, inviting guests to leave a review online on your preferred review site if they enjoyed their stay. You could also consider adding a message that invites dissatisfied guests to email you directly with any negative comments, which will hopefully avoid those complaints going public online.

Post-stay Messaging

It’s best to ask for reviews as soon as possible after a guest’s stay while they are still focused on their experience. Post-stay messaging provides an ideal opportunity to encourage guests to leave a review online.

Whether by email or mobile messaging, post-stay messages thanking guests for their stay should be sent to every guest and should also politely ask them to leave a review if they enjoyed their experience at your property. As mentioned above, invite them to contact you directly with any negative feedback. Post-stay communications can be triggered automatically through your property management system (PMS), CRM or guest messaging platform.

Make it Easy to Leave Reviews

Whenever and however you prompt guests to leave a review, make it easy for them to do so. If it’s not clear where they should leave a review and they have to search online and click around, chances are it’s not going to happen. Instead, point them directly to your property’s profile on your preferred review channel via direct links (or linked icons/banners) included in emails, mobile messages and on your website.

Any printed material should also point guests in the right direction by including the logo or website address of your preferred review site along with your profile name (which should be the same as your property’s name).

Automate Review Management

Make it easy for yourself too, by automating review management with CRM or reputation management software that can send post-stay surveys to your guests, triggered automatically. Through platforms like Revinate, completed surveys can then be submitted straight to important review channels such as TripAdvisor and Google, steadily increasing online review volume.

When your PMS is integrated with your reputation management software, you don’t even need to enter guest details into your reputation management system or CRM—the PMS sends the data directly. The entire process becomes automated, saving you valuable time and ensuring no guest goes forgotten when it comes to asking for feedback.

Be on the Sites that Matter

From Google to TripAdvisor to Booking.com, set up profiles on multiple review channels to make sure you cover the ones your guests like and use. If you haven’t already, search for reviews for your property on Google (and other major search engines like Bing and Yahoo! Search) and take note of the sites that come up—these are the ones that your customers prefer, so make sure you set up profiles on all of them to make it easy for your guests to find you and review you.

Offer Incentives

Sometimes it takes a little incentive to motivate customers to write a review. While at first this approach might sound a bit like a bribe, it’s not really. There’s nothing wrong with running a monthly draw for all customers who submit a review (whether good or bad) online. Promote your draw on social media, on your website, and in emails and other guest communications.

Some ideas for prizes include a free night’s stay, a gift certificate, or a free meal at your restaurant.

Share Rave Reviews on Social Media

Sharing your property’s glowing reviews on your social media channels is a good way to inspire (and remind) other guests to leave their own reviews online. Social media users love it when their content is shared by other social media users, with credit given to the original creator.

Sharing positive reviews on social media is not only a good tactic for generating more online reviews, it also provides great content for promoting your property.

Respond to Reviews

You don’t have to respond to all reviews, but you should endeavor to respond to all negative reviews and some great reviews as well. Thoughtfully responding to online reviews tells customers that you care about your guests and their experience of your property, and motivates other guests to provide valuable feedback that helps your business succeed.

Treat Every Guest like a VIP

Consumers tend to write reviews about exceptionally good or bad experiences—not about average ones. So be exceptional by showing every single customer how much you value them. It doesn’t take much—from anticipating guests’ needs to greeting guests with a smile every time, the smallest efforts can make a big difference to your customers.

Generating a steady stream of online reviews isn’t always easy, but it’s a crucial part of maintaining a healthy online reputation. Follow the above tips and watch the reviews roll in—and your occupancy and revenue soar!

For Your Inspiration: Nine Unique Spaces Converted into Boutique Hotels

We’ve blogged before about today’s travelers and their desire for unique spaces and new experiences. People are over generic accommodations. They want novelty—something that will capture their imagination and look good on their social media feeds. You can choose to offer that novelty in a myriad of different ways, from decor to events to amenities.

Some of the most interesting properties stand out from their competitors for the unique structures they call home. Here are a few unexpected spaces that were converted into hotels to great effect:

Bull-fighting ring

The San Pedro bull-fighting ring was built in Zacatecas, Mexico in 1866. After a long history of hosting the most famous matadors, it closed in 1975. And in 1989 it reopened as the Quinta Real Zacetecas Hotel. The hotel, which received an International Architectural Award for outstanding restoration, preserves and celebrates the history of the original structure. The restaurant and bar encircle the El Ruedo (the ring) offering extraordinary views of the unique property.

Island military fort

Two former military sea forts off the coast of Portsmouth (built for defense in 1859) have been converted into luxury resorts owned by Solent Forts. Both properties have spacious suites, luxury spas, bars and restaurants, function rooms, game rooms, and rooftop hot tubs. The larger of the two, No Man’s Fort, even has a laser battle arena. Guests (both overnight and day visitors) can partake in a number of activities including fishing, cocktail making, and wine and cheese tasting.

Prison

A 19th-century prison in Germany was converted into Alcatraz Hotel. They purposefully retained a lot of its prison character, leaving bars on windows and a caged reception. Guests can choose to stay in cell rooms or comfort rooms and are offered striped pajamas so they really feel the part.

Crane

Cranes are typically used to make buildings, but Crane Hotel Feralda in Amsterdam uses one as a building itself. Three luxury, eclectically-decorated suites (named Free Spirit, Mystery, and Mystique), as well as a panoramic lounge and a rooftop hot tub, are built into the scaffolding of the crane. Situated on the banks of the river IJ, guests can enjoy exceptional views of the trendy NDSM neighborhood it calls home.

Airplane

Before travelers fly away on an airplane, they can sleep in one at Jumbo Stay Hostel. The converted Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet sits at the entrance of the Stockholm Arlanda Airport and offers dorms, standard rooms, and suites for rent. They even have a cockpit suite that provides panoramic views of the airport.

Railroad caboose

Airplanes aren’t the only vehicles being refurbished by lodging operators. Featherbed Railroad Caboose Bed and Breakfast offers nine suites housed in nine different converted railroad cabooses. And they’re all situated in a park-like setting on the shores of Clear Lake, California.

Shipping container

Visitors looking to enjoy the beautiful countryside of Round Top, Texas can stay in converted shipping containers at Flophouze Hotel. They boast six different suites, all with a kitchen and each sleeping between three to six people. Intrigued? The company also offers design, consulting, and installation services so you can build your own.

Grain silo

Grain silos have been converted into an eco-friendly hotel in Little River, New Zealand. SiloStay consists of eight units that each sleep two people. The two-story silos have a kitchen and living area on the first floor, and a bedroom and ensuite bathroom on the second.

Concrete pipe

It may sound strange to sleep in renovated drain pipes, but that’s exactly what you can do at Das Park Hotel in Linz, Austria. The units offer very simple (just a queen bed and bedside table) but comfortable accommodation. There are no on-site staff or amenities. Door codes are emailed to guests and reservations are made using a pay-as-you-wish system.

You don’t need to be this out-of-the-box to win the hearts of travelers, but unique details do help you stand out from the competition. We hope these extreme examples helped get the creative juices flowing.

A Hotelier’s Guide to Responding to Online Reviews

Today’s consumers rely heavily on reviews to make purchasing decisions. The quantity and quality of online reviews are both considered when determining what to buy or where to book. That makes them critical to a business’s success. But it’s not just about maximizing positive reviews and minimizing the negative ones (although that’s certainly important). Responding to reviews is also an essential part of reputation management. If done correctly it can further capitalize on the good reviews and mitigate the damage of the bad. Here’s a quick guide to responding to online reviews:

General tips

Use their name >> Always start your responses with the name of the customer. “Hi, Louise. Thank you.. “ or “Hello, Max. We are so sorry…” sound much more personal than beginning with a cold “Thank you …” or “We are so sorry…”. Using names tells your customers that you care about them as individuals. And it makes it seem less like an automated response.

Be genuine >> Nobody likes receiving a canned response. It feels inauthentic and doesn’t do anything to build a connection with customers. So, avoid generic statements and use language that showcases your property’s personality.

Don’t be repetitive >> It can be tempting to use the same responses over and over to save time, but people read multiple reviews when researching online. If the same phrases are repeated time and time again, they’ll notice. So, mix things up—it’ll look better for your brand.

Positive reviews

While most of your responses should be focused on negative reviews, responding to some positive ones is still important. It shows you don’t take customers’ kind words for granted, and is an opportunity to leverage the review even further.

Repeat the positive feature >> When a guest writes a rave review they usually include the specific details that meant the most to them—things like “the breakfast every morning was delicious.” Restate those details in your responses. Saying something like “we’re so glad you enjoyed our breakfast!” shows the guest (and others reading the exchange) that you’re listening to what they have to say and reiterates the positive attributes of your property.

Use your business name and keywords >> When crafting your response make sure to include your property’s name (i.e. “we are so pleased to hear you enjoyed your time at [PROPERTY NAME]” as well as other keywords. You want people to see your positive reviews, and this will help them show up in search results.

Include subtle marketing >> Reviews have a vast audience of potential customers, so don’t miss the opportunity to plug your property further. After thanking the guest for their kind words, include a subtle call-to-action. Something like “we’re so happy to hear you enjoyed your view of the lake! You should come back and see it in the winter; it’s so beautiful!”.

Negative reviews

Negative reviews aren’t fun, but they happen to everyone. And your responses say a lot to the potential customers reading them. So, you need to have a plan for how to move forward. If done well, you can significantly reduce any fallout (and a guest may even revise it afterwards).

Acknowledge and apologize >> The first thing you should do is acknowledge the experience your guest had and express your apologies for it. People tend to calm down when their feelings are validated.

Move the conversation offline >> You don’t want to turn negative reviews into long, drawn-out discussions online. After apologizing for the guest’s experience, include an invitation to contact you offline so the situation can be resolved.

Keep it short and sweet >> Nobody wants to read paragraphs of text, especially when they’re upset. So, don’t add fuel to the fire with long-winded responses. A simple acknowledgment, apology, and an invitation to communicate further are all you need.

Don’t use your business name or keywords >> Unlike your positive reviews, you really don’t want negative reviews to be popping up on search results. For this reason, avoid using your property’s name or relevant keywords in your responses.

Responding to online reviews should be a regular part of your marketing strategy. Make sure you’re doing it right, so you can make the most of positive reviews and reduce the effects of negative ones.

Selling the Experience: How to Market Effectively to Today’s Travelers

A recent study conducted by Expedia and The Center for Generational Kinetics, found that 74% of Americans value experiences over things. That’s great news for the hospitality industry as most of those people are planning to travel in pursuit of those experiences.

So how can you capitalize on the emerging “experience economy”? For these travelers, the memory is the product. You need to adapt your marketing material to reflect that. It’s not enough to simply advertise a luxurious bed or first-rate amenities. You need to showcase the unique travel experiences that guests will have at your property. Here’s how:

Create video content

Video has become a powerful marketing medium across all industries. It improves SEO and boosts conversions—one study even suggests that including video content in a landing page can increase conversions by 80%. It’s also an ideal tool for showcasing experiences. If used correctly, the dynamic medium can inspire viewers and help them imagine what a stay at your property would be like.

Create videos that portray people experiencing everything your property has to offer (with #travelinspo footage of events and other highlights) and post them across your digital channels. Once viewers start picturing themselves laughing with friends over a drink on the patio, or kayaking peacefully on the lake out front, for example, they won’t want to book anywhere else.

Promote your destination

For most travelers, the destination is the draw. They’re looking to explore and experience the local culture. So, you should promote your locality as well as your property. Sharing helpful information about things to do and see in your area shows a commitment to experiential travel that guests will appreciate. And demonstrating your local expertise will earn their trust. Guests want to stay somewhere connected to the community with insider tips for getting the most out of their holiday.

Share UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is a big deal in today’s marketing landscape. And for good reason. Consumers are much more trusting of their peer’s reviews than traditional marketing material. And, as it’s the real-life experience of your guests, UGC is particularly well-suited for marketing in the experience economy. So, when a guest posts about their stay at your property, use it. It’s the most authentic promotional material you could hope for.

Considering the value of UGC, you should do what you can to encourage guests to post online. This can be done by creating a strong social media presence, hosting contests, and including calls-to-action on other marketing collateral.

Partner with influencers

For high-impact UGC, consider partnering with social media influencers. These are people with a significant number of followers whose content generates considerable engagement. Unlike traditional UGC, these posts will cost you (either in fees or free stays at your property). But if you choose the right influencer, it’ll likely be well worth the investment. 81% of marketers that have tried influencer marketing considered it effective.

Be authentic online

Part of selling the experience at your property is showing off your unique personality. Travelers today aren’t interested in generic accommodation. And if your digital content is uninspired and formulaic, they’ll assume your property is the same way. So make sure you’re being authentic on your website and social media channels. Avoid an overly formal tone and steer clear of canned responses to guest posts.

 

Today’s travelers are seeking exciting experiences they’ll remember forever (and can share on their social media pages). Make sure you’re creating effective marketing material so you can capture their imaginations and ultimately win their bookings.

 

London Extended Stay

Located in downtown London, Ontario, the London Extended Stay Hotel & Executive Suites is a locally owned and operated property that offers a unique hotel environment with bright, spacious suites designed to be a home away from home. Suites range in size from studios to two-bedrooms and equipped with a full kitchen. The London Extended Stay started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System this past summer. See how they’re using WebRezPro’s integrated web reservation software to accept online bookings by visiting their website!

Congratulations to WebRezPro Clients Named TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice for 2018

Every year TripAdvisor acknowledges top hotels around the world with the unveiling of their Travelers’ Choice awards. Using the millions of reviews collected in a one-year period, TripAdvisor determined the best properties for various categories (small hotels, luxury properties, etc.) in a variety of regions. Lodging operators were chosen for their commitment to quality, service and value. It’s a distinct honor in the hospitality industry, and the winners for 2018 have just been announced. This year 8,095 properties in 94 countries were recognized, and a number of WebRezPro clients were among the winners. We’d like to offer a big congratulations to the following operators who were highlighted in the 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards.

 

Every property included in this year’s list provided exceptional experiences for their customers that were not soon forgotten. How? A quick survey of the TripAdvisor reviews highlights the importance of friendly and knowledgeable staff, a relaxing atmosphere and quality food and amenities in contributing to guest satisfaction.

So, we just want to say: well done! Travelers’ Choice awards are a recognition of excellence in an extremely competitive industry and reflect an exceptional amount of hardwork and dedication. And it’s all determined by feedback from the people who matter most (the guests!). Inclusion in this list is a truly meaningful win.

Check out a complete list of the 2018 Travelers’ Choice winners here.

The Rangeley Inn

Located in Rangeley, Maine on the waterfront of Haley Pond, The Rangeley Inn is a restored landmark property that offers 21 guest rooms, seven suites and 14 waterview units with decks. The hotel offers an impressive array of amenities including complimentary breakfast and an onsite seasonal bar. The Rangeley Inn has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro to accept online bookings!

Riversage Billings Inn

Located in Billings, Montana, the Riversage Billings Inn – Billings, MT is a 59-room hotel that offers pet-friendly guest rooms! An abundance of amenities are available onsite including complimentary hot breakfast, free WiFi, laundry facilities and a fitness room. The Riversage Billings Inn has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how they’re using WebRezPro to accept online bookings!

A Hoteliers Guide to Targeting Millennials

People have a lot to say about Millennials—some of it flattering, some of it less so. But whatever your opinion about Generation Y (born in the ’80s and ’90s) they’re one that cannot be ignored by marketers in any industry. Now outnumbering baby boomers, and aging into financial independence, Millennials have become a powerful cohort in the consumer landscape. In fact, it is projected they will collectively spend 1.4 trillion dollars every year, by 2020. Considering Millennials have a greater desire to travel than any other generation, you can bet a significant chunk of that spending will find its way into the hospitality industry. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to start thinking about ways you can begin targeting what has been dubbed the ‘Wanderlust Generation,’ to capitalize on this powerful demographic.

What Millennials Want

So what are Millennials looking for in a vacation? When it comes to trip-planning, this generation prioritizes authentic experiences, unique spaces and a social atmosphere. Luckily for you, this places independent and boutique hotels at a distinct advantage!

Authenticity >> Studies show that more than anything else, traveling Millennials are in pursuit of an immersive cultural experience. This generation wants to eat authentic cuisine, explore colorful neighborhoods and enjoy new activities. Cater to this appetite for authenticity by highlighting your community’s character and offering suggestions for the unique local businesses that will stand out in your guests’ memories (and on their social media feeds).

Unique Spaces >> In the past, chain hotels were frequented by guests for their consistency. It was a comfort to know exactly what to expect from a property regardless of location.  Now that potential guests have access to so much information online (including user reviews and virtual tours) it’s much easier to ensure quality. As a result, Millennials are able to focus on seeking out unique properties instead. Make sure to emphasize your hotel’s individuality on your website and OTA profiles in order to appeal to this generation.

Social Atmosphere >> Another significant change from previous generations is a desire for communal areas and social events.  Millennials are spending less time in their rooms and looking for shared spaces to work, relax and socialize. Hotels are forgoing traditional lobbies for an aesthetic more closely resembling a living room or your favorite coffee shop. Consider creating spaces at your property where guests can work on their laptops, read books and play board games.

Marketing to Millennials

As an independent hotel, you have a lot to offer to the Millennial generation. But that doesn’t mean much if you’re not marketing to them effectively. Generation Y interacts with brands and businesses in a very different way than previous generations. To maximize Millennial clientele, make sure your marketing is mobile-friendly, social media heavy, and emphasizes engagement over selling.

Mobile >> 49% of Millennials use their smartphones to plan and book vacations, and most don’t bother trying to navigate a site that isn’t designed for mobile devices. We’ve been talking about the importance of mobile-friendly sites and booking engines for ages.  With Millennials beginning to dominate the consumer market, this advice is only becoming more relevant and necessary. If you haven’t made this change yet, it’s officially time.

Social Media >> Millennials are known for their avid use of social media. If you want to get their attention you need to be targeting them where they are, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Snapchat. Your strategy for these platforms should include plans for your own content (like choosing images that evoke #travelinspo) as well as campaigns to encourage guests to share their own experiences. Consider partnering with social media ‘influencers’ (whom Millennials trust significantly over traditional advertising) by offering complimentary stays or perks for sharing their experience online.

Engagement  >> The use of social media has changed the way Millennials expect to interact with businesses. Marketing campaigns that feel too corporate will completely miss their mark. This generation wants personalized interaction and two-way communication with their favorite brands. It’s a good idea to share, comment and engage with guests regularly on all your social media platforms and inspire loyalty with promotional campaigns and insider info.

The Millennial generation has become an exceedingly important group of consumers. Due to their size and growing spending power, Generation Y has changed the way brands do business across all industries. Start thinking about ways your property can target Millennials and capitalize on this generation of travelers.

Liberty Lodge

Situated in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, The Liberty Lodge is a 30-room hotel that offers nightly or extended stays. All units are one-bedroom suites that are equipped with free WiFi, microwaves, refrigerators, dishwashers and dual-burner cook tops, making this an ideal place to stay when visiting Williamsport for awhile. The Liberty Lodge has just started using our cloud-based WebRezPro Property Management System to help with their operations. Visit their website to see how WebRezPro is enabling them to take online bookings!