If you know anything about travel marketing, you probably already know that the vast majority of travelers check online reviews before making any trip decisions. In fact, the latest stats reveal that 90% of individuals claim reading a positive review online impacted their buying decisions—and 86% said reading a negative review did the same.
TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google and Facebook are often first stops for potential guests making travel plans. Receiving many positive online reviews, and gracefully handling the inevitable bad review, is one way you can amp up your travel business’ revenue in an organic, low-cost way.
If you’re not really sure where to begin in generating more positive online reviews for your business, you’re in good company.
That’s why we’ve created this simple guide to help you Ace the game of online reviews & enhance your online travel marketing strategy:
The Three Giants Of Online Travel Reviews: TripAdvisor, Facebook & Google My Business
For just about every travel and tourism business, these are three sites in which you absolutely must manage your online reputation.
Love it or hate it, TripAdvisor is hands-down the most important review site for travel and tourism brands. TripAdvisor boasts a staggering 480 million unique visitors with a steady 280-315 million travelers using the site each month.
The higher your ranking in TripAdvisor, the more customers coming through your door. TripAdvisor determines its rankings based on Quality, Quantity and Recency of reviews.
Pro Tip: While TripAdvisor is undeniably important, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Recently we were talking to a hotel owner who was crushed when their TripAdvisor ranking plummeted from number 1 to number 10 for no apparent reason other than an algorithm change on TripAdvisor. They were stressed and fearful, to say the least, about what would happen to their income.
That’s why we suggest managing a great reputation across the board (as well as investing in a 360-degree online travel marketing strategy.)Facebook and Google Business are two additional authoritative sites people go to when making travel plans and finding reviews.
If you are already providing 5-star service, then it should be easy to get 5-star reviews. However, you will need to be proactive about asking your guests to leave reviews for you. By taking just a few simple steps, you can quickly and easily build your online reviews and manage your brand reputation.
How To Get Raving Online Reviews
Most guests would be more than happy to leave a good review. They just need a little prompting.
Get creative with ways to reach out to your guests that will encourage them to leave an online review. Scoring tons of great reviews all comes back to how personal you are with your guests & how connected they feel to your brand. Here are some ideas to get you started with this key aspect of travel marketing:
- Give guests a small gift or goodie bag with a welcome note, as well as a small business card inside asking for a review. TripAdvisor has specific cards you can order for something like this, or you can create your own. Just be sure to put the exact link to your TripAdvisor profile or Facebook Page and specifically tell guests you would love to hear their feedback on their stay.
- Email a Thank You note after each stay with a “P.S.” to leave a review.
- Remind your guests at Check Out. You can put a small sign at the checkout desk or on bathroom counters.
- Give reminder cards to your employees and encourage them to pass them out to guests who express delight in certain aspects of the hotel. This not only helps you get more reviews but encourages meaningful connections between guests and employees.
- Make it easy. Keep in mind your guest is spending some of their valuable time on this. The easier it is to leave a review, the more likely you will get one. Always leave the exact link to your specific profile on TripAdvisor or other review sites.
TripAdvisor provides an amazing tool called Review Express. This free service is a powerful review-collecting platform that hotels can use to invite recent guests to leave reviews easily on TripAdvisor. It makes the process easier for you, and your guests.
If you’ve provided an incredible experience, then your guests will want to leave a review. However, you’ll still need to gently remind them.
Responding To A Negative TripAdvisor Review
No matter how incredible your property or offering, chances are you’ll receive a negative review from time to time. This is where so many businesses go wrong. This is not the right time to try to defend yourself. Listen carefully to what the reviewer had to say. If it is something you can truly improve upon, then tell the person that you value their feedback and you have already begun to implement said changes.
Responding to negative comments is crucial. Not responding, or responding rudely or defensively, will only hurt your business in the long run. It’s important to remember, you’re not just responding to the one reviewer, you’re responding to the entire platform. 84% of travelers said that appropriate management responses to bad reviews “improves impression of the hotel” while 64% said that an aggressive or defensive management response to a bad review “makes them less likely to book that hotel” (Skift.)
If you still disagree with a negative comment after carefully (and humbly) considering how can you benefit from the feedback, use the Sandwich Method to respond. Start with a nice comment thanking them for taking the time to stay, explain your side of the disagreement as kindly and openly as possible. Then end by thanking them again for their feedback and wishing them well. You may also wish to invite them back and offer them a better experience the second time (if of course you would actually like to have them back.)
Here are two sub-par examples of how you should NOT go about responding to negative TripAdvisor Reviews
Responding To Negative Reviews With Grace
Getting defensive is only going to hurt your business. Take time to show the readers that you are genuinely confused and saddened to see a negative review. Show them you are unaccustomed to receiving such reviews and let them know you are truly sad to hear they had a bad experience.
“Hey (name). Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m shattered to hear that you didn’t enjoy your service. I make every effort to share my insider knowledge from 30 years of hospitality service with the staff. I assure you that they are always encouraged to act courteous, and I’m shocked and disappointed to hear they acted otherwise on this occasion. You can be assured I will talk with them to make sure our service is excellent at all times. I would love to welcome you back for another meal if you are in the area again. If you see the rest of the reviews, you’ll know that we pride ourselves on our five-star experience, and I want to make this up to you. Thanks from the team at ____”
Additional Tips For Responding To TripAdvisor Reviews (Both Positive and Negative)
- Respond within the first 24 hours. If you leave a negative review sitting with no response for too long, other travelers will get the wrong impression.
- Use the guests’ name whenever possible. If there’s no name, use their username.
- Be thoughtful – don’t use template responses. Take time to individualize your response so that your guest feels special and cared about. Remember, people are watching. This is one of the most organic forms of travel marketing.
- Respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. If you find yourself pressed for time, you can be selective about the good reviews you respond to, but make sure you always respond to the negative.
- Invite guests back in a personalized way.
Managing your online reputation is one of the most important aspects of travel marketing. Etching a few extra moments a day to manage this & encouraging guests to leave reviews will shoot your business above your competitors in no time.