By: Mike Vescio
As the world’s largest travel website, TripAdvisor has more than 660 million reviews and 456 million average monthly visitors. So, ABA members should pay close attention to its influence over travelers’ booking decisions.
To learn more about how destinations and motorcoach operators can make the best use of TripAdvisor—and stay in the reviewers’ good graces—The Insider asked Mike Vescio to offer his expertise. As a tour and travel sales manager at ABA member Discover DeKalb Convention & Visitors Bureau in Georgia, he represents 81 hotels to student and senior groups and the LGBT community. Before working for the DeKalb CVB, Vescio was a sales manager at a leading area hotel where he booked SMERF (social, military, educational, religious, and fraternal) groups. This past July, he presented a seminar on TripAdvisor to attendees at the regional meeting of the Georgia, Alabama, and South Central Motorcoach associations.
Here is what Vescio had to say:
You have one chance to take care of your customers. Whether you operate buses, run a restaurant, or operate a hotel or amusement park, they picked you for a reason. Bad reviews can—and will—affect your business. In today’s volatile marketplace, you need every advantage you can get, and taking care of your customers should be your No. 1 priority at the property level.
If a person has a bad experience, research has shown that he or she will tell as many as 26 other people, according to market and travel research firm Lee Resources International Inc. No one needs that kind of bad reputation, and a bad reputation can kill a company.
Corporate meeting planners and tour operators regularly read published reviews before placing group business at hotels. Based on my conversations with planners and operators, they typically only look at the first two pages of reviews on TripAdvisor. Why? They’re focusing on the most recent reviews and are less interested in things that may have happened months or years ago.
I personally review properties when I travel. It’s something I do both for fun and for professional reasons. It helps me keep my eyes open and alert to what the competition is doing, and, hopefully, properties that read my comments on TripAdvisor may put some of my comments to good use.
All in all, when I put myself in the customer’s shoes, it helps me to better see the hotels in my area as visitors do, and that’s a mindset that helps the CVB and our members.
Before joining the CVB in DeKalb County, I worked for the No. 1 hotel in Atlanta; we were No. 1 in the city out of 184 hotels, and we held that position for a year. We got there by being very in tune with our guests from check-in to check-out.
What did I learn there about how to successfully sway TripAdvisor reviews? Make sure your front desk (or front-line team) understands how important it is to address guests’ concerns before they turn into published reviews. To overcome a bad situation, be generous in offering on-site perks.
When your hotel is responding to uncomplimentary reviews, write comments tailored to each review. Never post canned replies—doing that tells readers you are on autopilot. Personal responses tell readers that you care—and that you respond to problems and promptly fix them.
Customers will pay higher rates for good service and the “warm fuzzies” they take home with them. When your ranking on TripAdvisor rises, remember to use that as a positive when promoting your business.
TripAdvisor reviews will not go away. They are here to stay, and that means you must stay closer than ever before to your guests. Keep them happy. Their reviews will be happy, and so will your bottom line.
Mike Vescio is tour and travel sales manager at DeKalb Convention & Visitors Bureau, the official tourism agency for DeKalb County, Ga.