The development of the Web as a consumer research and booking tool greatly increased the amount of information available to guests. Guests can now compare features and prices for themselves on Online Travel Agency (OTA) websites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline.com, and can find in-depth product information, photos and often even videos on hotel chains and hotel property websites. However such sources suffer from a credibility problem. How can the customer be sure that the marketing focused information presented on such sites, which was after all designed to sell, was trustworthy?
Social media – sites where users could interact and exchange information with other users – helped address this issue. On social networks such as Facebook, customer can actively solicit the opinion of their expanded, almost global, network of friends as to where they should stay. On social sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr they can see candid photos and videos of real guest experiences. But it is user generated reviews, on dedicated review sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, or as supplemental content on Online Travel Agency websites such as Expedia or Booking.com that is currently having the most dramatic effect on hotel distribution. On these sites customers guests can see both quantitative and qualitative peer evaluations of practically each and every property practically at a glance, providing them with an unparalleled and highly credible insight into the quality of each product. User generated reviews have shown to be highly credible and to have a high degree of influence on the customer’s decision making process. Thus managing its reputation on both online review sites – and on the wider social media space – has become a critical issue for hotels.
A wide variety of these tools exist to help manage this process, ranging in scope from free tools that monitor a single social media to highly comprehensive tools that cast their monitoring net over most of the web, using sentiment analysis to estimate consumer reaction to recent brand initiatives. But while these generalist tools are useful, few actively monitor travel specific user review site or OTA sites that feature user reviews – content that is critically important for hotels as it influences the customer at the point of purchase. Hotel industry specific tools do exist, but these tend to be highly variable in terms of features, system coverage and even price!
This report examines the broad range of online reputation management systems available for use by hotels. Having explained the significance of the management process for hotels, and detailed where reviews of hotel products can be found, an overview of how best to manage your social media presence is given. A comprehensive list of the core, essential, desirable and advanced features of online reputation management systems is examined, and the hotel specific systems available in today’s marketplace are benchmarked. Lastly indications are given as to pricing models, and contact details for each of the systems evaluated is provided.
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