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New filters for mass content

ITB Hospitality Day 2014: Everyone appreciates reviews - and transparency

ITB Hospitality Day 2014 Panel Bewertungen gesamt  

Customer Reviews are good, only the mass of content is overwhelming. Discussion at the 9th "ITB Hospitality Day" at ITB 2014 Berlin. On stage (from left): Moderator Axel Jockwer, Marion
Schumacher of Moevenpick, Tom Breckwoldt of TripAdvisor, Blogger Yvonne Zagermann, and
Benjamin Jost of TrustYou.


 

Berlin (April 11, 2014). The voice of the customer is increasingly important. "User generated content", still viewed with scepticism five years ago, is very much accepted today, even in the hotel sector. Hotel ratings platforms and an increasing number of online travel agents (OTAs) produce mass content with their guest commentaries. How do bloggers and analysts see the hotel sector today? Have they changed or is it their readers? From the perspective of the third party, the discussion round at this year's Hospitality Day, the hotel conference at the ITB, described how reviews have changed in the perception of customers, hotels and intermediaries. This article concludes reporting by hospitalityInside.com on the ITB 2014.

ITB HospitalityDay 2014 Panel Bewertungen Schumacher Marion  

Marion Schumacher: Shift
in
communication.

 

"Over the last five, six years, there has been a shift in communication," Marion Schumacher described, until mid-March Vice President PR & Communication for Moevenpick Hotels & Resorts. "Today, the customer decides." Benjamin Jost, Co-founder and Managing Director of the review portal TrustYou, had some words of encouragement for hoteliers though: 80% of ratings are positive. "Customers talk a lot about service," TrustYou has found out. By contrast, slow and expensive Internet connections were often criticised. And in the international comparison, it was clear that Europe received three percent more complaints with regard to F&B, whilst in Asia, ratings for F&B were 10 percent better.

It's notable that users from emerging markets such as India and Brazil pay close attention to whether a hotel actively responds to customer ratings, Tom Breckwoldt pointed out, Territory Manager of Business Listings for Germany, Austria and Switzerland at TripAdvisor. These markets expect a dialogue. The global portal currently lists 150 million reviews.

So what gets the blogger going in the hotel? This new species of opinion leader has meanwhile gained an ear, both from customers as well as from hoteliers. Yvonne Zagermann, travel blogger for the website justtravelous.com among others, hates it when her bed sheets are tucked in too tightly. On the other hand, she loves well-trained staff in the hotel.

Quality and credibility remain decisive

  ITB HospitalityDay 2014 Panel Bewertungen Breckwoldt
 

Tom Breckwoldt:
Metareviews are coming up.

And what gets the hoteliers going about the ratings? Marion Schumacher: "The reviews are often much too long, it's all subjective. We would like to see fact-based criticism instead of nebulous, emotional comment. After all, reviews are also a quality tool for us." As a result, Moevenpick Hotels refuses to incentivise guests for reviews (e.g. free meal for anyone writing a review). The focus is on quality, not on volume. And most ratings are trusted.

Hoteliers today are also willing to pay for the analysis of customer ratings, and that without complaint. Today, between 50,000 and 70,000 hotels use global portals such as TrustYou, Benjamin Jost reported. But how many ratings are fake? Host, Prof Axel Jockwer, asked. He began his online career with HolidayCheck and is today Professor for Tourism Management at the EBC University Stuttgart. Media consistently report of fakes accounting for between 30 and 40% of reviews, whereas providers estimated the number of fakes to be low (of course trusting in their own control systems).

Tom Breckwoldt from TripAdvisor said: For this reason, it's unlikely that there's one truth, though Benjamin Jost from TrustYou found: There were large discrepancies in only a few ratings, whereas most ratings revealed only smaller discrepancies. For him, the new trend is that alongside classic rating portals, more and more OTAs such as HRS or booking are pushing forward into this field with their own customer content. And even the individual blog is today a little ratings portal.

ITB HospitalityDay 2014 Blogger Panel Jost Benjamin  

Benjamin Jost: Google loses
relevance.

 

"Meta-Reviews" the new filter

As content swells on the Internet, the customer finds it increasingly difficult to find relevant information. So too does the hotelier. The result is that everybody is now looking for new filters to boil down the comments to their core content. TripAdvisor differentiates, for instance, between business and private reviews. TrustYou is working on a meta-review concept. According to Jost, customers such as Kajak and Lastminute already filter out the "golden nuggets" from the masses of opinions. These are target-group-specific information which zoom in on the USPs of the hotels. These targeted ratings are also becoming increasingly important in view of the content for mobile devices - but more so for the hotelier than for the customer.

Schumacher confirms: For hotel operators, transparency is very important - even if not every investor would understand it. Accordingly, Moevenpick also works with TrustYou scores. Even bloggers use awards as orientation, however, there must still be initiative here: Zagermann reads on average four to six reviews for a hotel and compares them with the hotel's own website. Her followers are particularly grateful for this groundwork.

Conversion still very much underestimated

  ITB HospitalityDay 2014 Panel Bewertungen Zagermann Yvonn
  Yvonne Zagermann:
Comparing with hotel
websites.  / photos:
ostwestfoto

Huge companies like TrustYou look here at the "conversion rate": How many reviews actually result in bookings? Jost laughed: In his opinion, very few - and for him, this is one of the great mysteries. After all, hoteliers generate a whole raft of ratings from their in-house guest feedback. However, most hoteliers still don't want to put these on the website. This prompted Jockwer to ask: Are there differences between guest ratings in the hotel and on ratings platforms? Marion Schumacher dismissed this convincingly - as a rule, these are as good as identical.

Here, all were agreed that there’s a hidden mega-potential waiting to be expoited: In one study, Cornell University estimated that positive reviews could result in an increase of 11.2% for the room rate.

And last but not least, what influence does the search engine giant Google have? Benjamin Jost from TrustYou: Years ago, Google was considered the ratings portal, today though, it is not accorded the same weight in terms of ratings and bookings - TripAdvisor has replaced it here. / Maria Puetz-Willems

All reports on the discussion rounds from the "ITB Hospitality Day" 2014 can be found in our "Network" section (ITB Berlin).

 

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