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Placing the TripAdvisor Review Widget on Your Hotel Website:

a Good or Bad Move?
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by Max Starkov July 2009 - 

We at HeBS are often asked about the pros and cons of:

1.    Creating a link on the hotel website to the customer reviews page of the hotel on TripAdvisor
2.    Displaying TripAdvisor reviews directly on the hotel website via the TripAdvisor Review Widget
We have always recommended against both of these options.  Here is why:

1.  Creating a link on the hotel website to the customer reviews page of the hotel on TripAdvisor
This is a much simpler case. Have you looked at your property page and your customer reviews on TripAdvisor lately? Have you noticed that the page is full of advertisements by all the major online travel agencies (OTAs), all the major hotel brands, and many of your competitors?

By linking from your hotel website to TripAdvisor you are actively encouraging your potential customers to book with the OTAs or someone else. On the other hand, it is extremely expensive nowadays to bring visitors to your website (costs related to paid search, website development, SEO, hosting, email marketing, analytics, etc.), and you would not want to lose them that easily by sending them away.

2.  Displaying TripAdvisor reviews directly on the hotel website via the TripAdvisor Review Widget
The TripAdvisor Review Widget is placed on the hotel website by uploading a special TripAdvisor code that “pushes” live customer reviews from TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor promotes this as a ‘friendlier’ option compared to Option 1 above because the hotel website visitors do not have to leave the site, and therefore will not be exposed to advertising by the OTAs and competitors.

Here are the cons as we see them:

Official vs. Unofficial Web Content

•    With social media becoming the “voice of the people” online travelers want to see both sides of the story:
o    The “Official Content”: this is the hotel website’s descriptions of the hotel product and services
o    The “Unofficial Content”: these are customer reviews and postings on social media sites, TripAdvisor, etc.
Mixing official and unofficial content by adding the TripAdvisor Widget on the hotel website goes against the very principle of separating official from unofficial content, convolutes the mere nature of social media content, creates confusion among online travelers and ultimately works against the hotel.

•    Lack of Control over Customer Reviews
No hotel will ever publish a negative customer review on its website. Having TripAdvisor push live customer reviews to the hotel website creates the very real threat that negative reviews will appear on the hotel website as soon as they are posted on TripAdvisor. How do you control that? There is no way that you can filter out negative reviews with this TripAdvisor Review Widget.

•    A Guest Satisfaction Survey should already exist on the hotel website
As per best practices, the hotel website should already feature a Guest Testimonials Page, as well as a Guest Satisfaction Survey, which aims to solicit customer opinions about hotel services, accommodations, etc. See a sample here: http://www.leparcsuites.com/hotel/guest-survey.php 

•    Don’t Tempt the Competition
We have noticed that when the competition discovers that you feature “live” customer reviews from TripAdvisor on your website, they are often tempted to write a fake negative review about your hotel themselves.

•    Best Practices:
TripAdvisor created this functionality to link from the hotel website back in early 2008. As of today only a few hundred hotels have signed up (out of over 50,000 U.S. hotels). No major hotel brand has allowed its franchisees to link to TripAdvisor from their own websites, and no chain website links to TripAdvisor. Why? The reasons sited above, as well as a very practical one:

"the industry in general should not contribute to the expansion of monopolistic customer review depositories like TripAdvisor. This site already has more than 30 million unique visitors every month. It already has a big chunk of the marketplace. Its closest competitor has only 5 million visitors a month."
Our clients agree with us:

Here is what one of our clients, a luxury boutique hotel in California, had to say:

“I agree that the TripAdvisor Review Widget  works against the hotel, particularly since in this economy we’ve been forced to play in the opaque sites (Priceline, Hotwire), we’ve found those customers posting reviews that are either only partial truth, at best, and/or certainly embellished, showing the hotel in a very negative light”.

What do you think about displaying TripAdvisor reviews directly on the hotel website via the TripAdvisor Review Widget—is this a good idea or not?

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Contact:

HeBS
Max Starkov
max@hospitalityebusiness.com
 

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Also See: A Hoteliers How-To Guide to Online Advertising and Media Buying / October 2008
Ten Standards for Promoting Your Hotel Online / March 2008
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