The sheer numbers
I’ve not paid a lot attention to my own hotel’s guest reviews until recently.
First of all not many guests write in the good old paper guest book. Maybe 1 out of 10 to 1 out of 8 is my guess. Less guests are inclined to put their findings on an internet site. So by nature the small hotel / B&B has a disadvantage.
Would lovers of small hotels and B&B’s turn to large sites for reviews?
Although I am not hesitant to chalk my findings in a blog, I do not often file guest reviews on sites like Tripadvisor, Booking or similar sites. I do understand that many people are naturally reluctant to become personal on the world wide web. So although Tripadvisor has collected many reviews over the years, such reviews are far from complete. Especially for the small hotels and B&B’s who fail to get many reviews by the low number of their guests.
It is my feeling that even if you are inclined to look up guest reviews, the frequent visitors and fans of small hotels and B&B’s are not so likely to use Tripadvisor, as they know the small hotels and B&B’s are not easily findable on mega sites like Tripadvisor.
The possible abuse by hotels
Although Strictly Forbidden, it is clear from various comments over the internet that Tripadvisor reviews are from time to time manipulated by hotels or parties closely relating to hotels. Recently it has become public knowledge that Tripadvisor sometimes puts red flags by reviews that appear too advantageous or disadvantageous to be true.
The Asociated Press had an article on Tripadvisor putting warning signs at guest reviews.
Tripadvisor monitoring of reviews
It does seem that Tripadvisor monitors reviews before they are published. As per my recent attention I had asked a couple of guests if they would like to write a tripadvisor review about my hotel. They did so, but several reported back that apparently they couldn’t get their reviews published despite reclamations to the Tripadvisor helpdesk. Thanks to the kind help via their twitteraccount they were able to dig the reviews up from their servers’ vaults. It turns out that there is a time lag between someone filing a review and Tripadvisor publishing it.
The ownership and alliances of Tripadvisor
Expedia owns Tripadvisor and Tripadvisor collaborates with a number of OTA’s. That’s one of the reasons reviews at Tripadvisor pull people away from your small hotel site and induces them to book your small hotel via one of the OTA’s. But then you face another problem as small hotel/B&B: If you do not have a central repository with your room inventory from which the OTA’s can book you, you’ll be at loss. OTA’s want numbers as well. They induce you to give them as much of your inventory as possible, or refuse you. If you give them each your total availability without a central inventory of available rooms you will find yourself busy the whole day disc jockeying several OTA sites to open and close room availability. An other solution is you minimize the number of rooms you put available to one or another OTA, but then you are not advertising yourself, as most OTA’s don’t show your accommodation if there is no availability. It doesn’t seem to help if you are in the Tripadvisor B&B section, because there are hardly accommodations there. Maybe their experience in the new field of vacation rentals (appartments and villas) will help to cure the problems the small hotel owners are facing.
From the above it follows that I have mixed feelings about Tripadvisor, even if every marketing guru will loudly claim that you have to have guest reviews. In principle it can help to make a small hotel findable. However it also can make a small hotel feel extremely small viz a viz the large chains of hotels.
Oh yes and when the lost reviews were up finally, we rose from position 14 to position 3 in The Hague. That triggers another observation: The Tripadvisor algorithm sees to it that older reviews are less influential than the newer ones. That works to both sides: A new highly acclaimed accommodation can get number one position with just one glorious review. I have had the honor myself in the past. The longer Tripadvisor publishes reviews of your establishment, the heavier your glorious past becomes:-)
You may have seen this post change over time…That is because it happened again: I pressed the publish button too early (-: