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Hotel Marketing 2.0 - Guest Care And Psychological Tactics To Find Your Way On Tripadvisor

Jan 17, 2008
The growing weight of Internet in the hospitality industry has led some hoteliers of little independent hotels to the misleading impression that they can easily "do business on tourism with more concerns for the web that for the hotel property."

The problem is that "good advertising never sold a bad product." The rules to be successful in hospitality are always the same, and, for the joy of the "good product hotels", Internet is the most cost-effective, powerful distribution and advertising medium. But we know "the beauty is in the eye of the beholder", and the new beholder we all know it's TripAdvisor.

I would therefore tell you how, in the modern so called "Web 2.0" tourism market, past and present meet together; as the "simple" and ancient art of "hospitality" saved a Barcelona Hotel from a very bad review on Expedia's most powerful child.


In a recent trip to Spain I stayed in a 3 star hotel, I'll call it the "Pablo hotel" just to be sure to not escape the commonplaces...let's say it was "picturesque": dark, noisy, small rooms with broken air conditioning. A few steps from the "Pablo" there was another 3 star hotel that, for the same rate, offered spacious and better furnished rooms, bathrooms with marble baths and a modern lounge bar.

I returned home to write my first review on TripAdvisor...with a very soft and ironic tone, I just wanted to warn other travelers that, for the same price, they could lodge in a "better" hotel, but...


The Pablo Hotel was managed by a family that, dealing everyday with many problems due to lack of staff and resources, tried in any way to pay attention to its guests and to do anything possible to cater them with a personal, caring service.

Obviously this management could not spend a substantial budget on the hotel structure and services as the competitor, but this not means it had forgotten the basic foundations of the job.

During my stay I have known people who, with questionable results, worked hard day and night to accommodate guests in the best way possible. I felt like home, surrounded by friendly and forthcoming hosts.

The result? I didn't have "the guts" to publish my negative review.


Whether you like it or not, there is always something "personal" that impels us to write a review, a subtle interests of "rewarding" or "punishing" the hotel staff.

When the "guest care" is successful, customers will want to return in some way "the favor", to make a "small gift" to a friend that housed us with heat and attention.

This is a critical point, because TripAdvisor's rankings are based not only on the

1. quality of votes

but also on the

2. time-frequency of reviews

Satisfaction for the attention received and the friendly relationship that develops between client and staff of the hotel leads to positive reviews and also pushes many more travelers to write on TripAdvisor (as on the other infinite forums and travel blogs on the web).

The same people perhaps wouldn't write a positive review just in case the hotel rooms were simply elegant and equipped with large plasma TV or Jacuzzi.

We mustn't forget that Web 2.0 is founded on interactive social relationships - kindness has still a great effect. And if your guests "like you", you're creating a small army of advertisers that will serve your marketing:

1. for free
2. in a viral way
3. in the most effective way - since their "marketing campaigns" are perceived as unbiased and caring only for the good of the readers.


Many hoteliers complain that the negative reviews of their hotel are not "objective", forgetting that the positive ones are not different; the personal impression that a hotelier/staff gives its guests affects all the rest and is the first and most important factor that is evaluated, so important to influence the perception of the hotel itself...

Excluding the cleanliness of the room, all the rest it's widely varying according to the impression that the human relationship within the hotel has left; the rooms may seem small and bare, or not too large and neat depending on this kind of relationship and the mood you're able to create. We'll never read this kind of psychotic review:

"The staff was so welcoming and friendly, I felt like home. The Hotel sucks."

If you leave a good impression on your guests, they will watch the hotel with the same eyes, more undemanding and less inclined to the criticism.


TripAdvisor is just one of the infinite international web sites that world travelers use to exchange opinions and suggestions on hotel structures.

There are 2 approaches to address the challenge of Web 2.0 (read "the Customer-centric Web").

A. Find the latest technology to monitor any Blog, forum and social network existing site on the planet, spend a lot of money and time and just be sad of negative reviews;

B. Prevent the problem, offering the best experience possible for its guests not on the Internet but inside the hotel.

A negative review is always possible, but if it's surrounded by 30 positive reviews the problem probably belongs to the guest, and TripAdvisor's readers know it well. In the same way, hotelier's replies are important, but useless when found in the middle of 30 negative reviews.

Besides that TripAdvisor most of the time doesn't publish hotelier's replies nor care about them, since its final client is the traveler (not too strange, if you think it's the same final client of Expedia).


In a recent conference about Search Engine Marketing in the Travel Industry I heard a conversation between 2 hoteliers: "Travelocity can invest too much money on Paid Advertising, we cannot compete, we have not the resources to do the same marketing on the Internet."

Travelocity is currently using sophisticated analytic tools to extract, from its reviews, important indications on common problems of travelers. This is simply to give a better customer service.

Very often we don't considers that bigger Hotel Chains or well developed OTAs that have great financial assets also have the knowledge necessary to:

A. Develop a strategy of differentiation from the competition = provide a single value to their guests;

B. Devote themselves to guest care, to match travelers' desires and expectations = they give customers what they want, and customers do not want "a room", but something more difficult to offer.

Money is only the bright face of the medal, but the real difference is the greater emphasis on the wishes and needs of customers, that is all Web 2.0 is about. Not about Blogs, Java, Widgets, Platforms...

Small hotels can customize guest experiences and create a warmer and more personal atmosphere, and they don't have to miss this chance.


Internet is not the goal, is merely a means. A means that you can use at your own good or bad, and this makes a huge difference: is difficult to imagine hotels' offline brochures lacking as many hotel web sites.

This said, no good web site can promote a bad product. And hotels designed to rent rooms instead of host of people with "special" and "personal" attentions, are definitively a bad product.
About the Author
For free hotel marketing articles, be sure to check www.hotelmarketing.com (English) and www.bookingblog.com (Italian)
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