Boutique Hotelier quizzes TripAdvisor territory manager Business Listings UKI & Nordics Alistair MacGregor on everything from review authenticity controls to the new TripConnect tool that enables hotels to display their own booking channel alongside their distribution partners in the site’s metasearch
How are hotels ranked for your popularity index?
It is fuelled by an algorithm and gives three key elements more weighting than anything else: the average [overall review] score; then volume of reviews in consideration of the size of property and the recency of reviews.
What happens to an existing listing if a hotel rebrands or changes hands?
In the case of a rebrand, a change in ownership or a significant refurbishment for example, we can remove all of the old content from the date that that took place. The hotel will have changed and we want the site to give an accurate depiction to the consumer. This would need to be approved and we have guidelines.
How do ensure authenticity?
We have a zero-tolerance policy to fraudulent reviews. We’ve got around 80 contributions going up every minute, so it’s impossible for us to read every review before it’s published.
So the first level of security is electronic. We can look at all sorts of things, for example the IP address from where the review is being sent. We can do sophisticated consumer behaviour profiling. No security system is perfect, so if anything gets through, the next level is to rely on the hoteliers to let us know if they have a problem, that’s then looked into by a person.
We’ve recently just rolled out an ability for hoteliers to let us know if there’s blackmailing, for example if the guest says ‘if you don’t give me a discount I’ll leave a negative review on TripAdvisor’.
We investigate everything to a full extent and have sophisticated tools to get to the bottom of scenarios.
Can hoteliers incentivise guests to leave reviews?
No, it’s against our TripAdvisor guidelines to incentivise people to leave reviews. Review Express (see box) is really the main tool to do that.
So tell us about the new TripConnect function, what is it?
It’s a new tool — launched in October 2013 — and is only available to Business Listing subscribers. This tool is designed to give independent hotels the ability to participate in our metasearch [which enables the guests to enter their requirements for a room at a certain hotel and compare prices on different OTAs and now, via TripConnect, the hotel’s own website too]. The vision is that anyone who has the ability to transact online will be able to display in that metasearch if they want to.
Will the hotel’s booking system integrate with TripConnect?
In July 2013, we went out to the world and tried to establish a comprehensive list of internet booking engines (IBEs). We told them about the product and if you go to tripadvisor.co.uk/connectpartners we’ve got a list of all our certified IBEs. There’s a big list of IBEs that have completed the work and a list of those pending. We’re putting pressure on all internet booking engines to work with us. Furthermore, if the IBE is a ‘premium certified partner’, there will be all sorts of tracking tools available to the hotelier so they can see what ROI they’re getting.
Basically, once the independent hotel has bought their Business Listing and established that their technology supplier — the IBE — has built the bridge across to us, they’re ready to start using the TripConnect tool.
How much does it cost?
TripConnect uses a cost per click (CPC) pricing structure. The hotelier is invited to use their credit card to load their account. It’s very similar to Google AdWords conceptually. They can see exactly how much each different placement in the metasearch costs per click — so it’s a bidding auction, and there will be a minimum spend depending on whereabouts the hotel is geographically. The hotelier can see exactly what the other distribution partners are bidding on each placement, and if the top placement is 50p, to leapfrog that the hotelier will be obliged to pay 51p. So the prices are the same, it’s a level playing field for the independents and the booking partners.
But the OTAs will have a much bigger marketing budget to outbid the hotel.
Yes, but they’ve got a broader client base and often they won’t have access to the hotel’s full inventory.
How can the hotel manage the bidding process and payments?
Monitor things closely and there are tools that enable a hotel to cap the amount of money it wants to spend on a daily or periodical basis, for example they might say they don’t want to exceed £20 CPC spend per day, or £500 over a certain period of time.
AT A GLANCE / FREE TOOLS
• Content management: Registered hoteliers can manage content for display — upload an unlimited number of photos, choose a primary photo, write a description
• Manage reviews: Ability to respond to and dispute reviews
• Customer services: Direct access via telephone or email to manned customer-services centre
Online marketing tools
• Widgets and badges can be embedded onto a hotel website, for example a Certificate of Excellence or Traveller’s Choice Award badge
• Embedded reviews: Most recent reviews can be displayed on a widget on the hotel website to keep potential guests on your site
Offline marketing tools
• Print template for flyers or cards to encourage guests to write a review once they’ve left
• Launched in 2013, it enables hoteliers to customise and send out a template email to guests post-stay to collect reviews
AT A GLANCE / BUSINESS-LISTING TOOLS
• Annual subscription
• Property-specific pricing uses an algorithm that considers factors such as size of property and the amount of page views it receives on TripAdvisor
• Hoteliers can get a quote online
• Contact — up to three points of contact for hotel can be displayed, i.e. website, telephone and email
• Special offers can be created and displayed on the hotel’s listing page. The offer will also be promoted via other TripAdvisor marketing channels
• Announcements — such as a new menu, renovation, how many rooms are left for the bank holiday weekend for example can be created and displayed on the hotel’s listing page
• Carousel of images can be selected and displayed next to the hotel name on the popularity index page
• Only Business Listing subscribers can use the TripConnect tool