In trying to put some finishing touches on a webinar we are creating to support the HSMAI Certified Digital Hospitality Marketer (CDHM), I read two articles back to back that presented evidence exactly contrary to the other. Or so I thought. Upon closer reflection, I was, as usual, just missing the point.
The first is a white paper released by the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research titled "The Imapct of Social Media on Lodging Performance" and I thought, at last, proof that social media helps hotels. And I was right. The research shows that reliance on traveler reviews continues to grow, and that an increase in your online reputation can increase your ADR and occupancy. Specifically, increasing your TripAdvisor score by one point (on a five point scale) - so for example going from 3.3 to 4.3 allows a hotel to increase its pricing by 11.2% without sacrificing any occupancy or market share. That is kind of a big deal. It also shows that there is the potential for both ADR and occupancy increases when your overall social media reputation improves. The ratio appears to be about 1:1, but varies depending on your scale. Luxury brands are impacted less, midscale brands are impacted greatly.
So that is kind of good news for our Signature customers - the better you run your hotels, the more you can charge!
Then I read an article by Market Metrix titled "For Hospitality, Social Media is Too Little Too Late" which seemed to indicate that all these online travel reviews were really inaccurate. Some research suggests that by 2014, 15% of all online reviews will be paid for. The article also shows that online reviews don't really help hotels measure what might impact guest loyalty. For example, there may be several comments about a faulty remote control, which is a pain but doesn't really equate to loyalty, and no mention of that surly front desk clerk on TripAdvisor which heavily impacts guest loyalty. Bottom line,this article said, better not rely on social media rankings to tell you how your hotel is doing.
But here is the point I missed - while social media - in this case traveler reviews - may not always be accurate, the general public seems to believe them and bases purchase decisions on them. While you shouldn't rely solely on social media to measure and improve your guest service performance, you need to make sure that you are managing your reviews process to reflect positively on your hotel because it matters to your potential customers.