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What hoteliers can learn from ‘Attack of the TripAdvisors'

29 November 2011

Last week's Channel 4 programme exposed some of the scrutiny hoteliers are subjected to. Daniel Johnson examines the scenarios and explains how to deal with them

"The British hospitality industry is under attack. Businesses are being assaulted by ever-more nit-picking and abusive reviews. It's bad for their livelihoods and their sanity." So read the intro blurb to last week's Attack of the Trip Advisors on Channel 4. But what can hoteliers actually learn from stories featured in the programme?

Old Forge B&B, Norfolk

TripAdvisor TV2
TripAdvisor TV2
First up was the Old Forge B&B in Norfolk. We saw the owners in their full Fawlty Towers eccentricity (complete with straight-legged German marching and Spanish waiter) picking over their reviews in obvious distress.

But the reality of their situation is very different: 39 reviews on TripAdvisor with an average score of 4.5 out of 5, with 28 excellent reviews and only 4 terrible or poor reviews - not a bad return at all.

Rather than bemoaning the website, these hoteliers should be deciding how to make the most of their excellent scores to bring more business in.

Mark and Stuart and the Eltemere Inn

TripAdvisor TV1
TripAdvisor TV1
Hotelier Mark agreed to be reviewed by Stuart during the latter's stay. This was set up as a clash of personalities, with posh Mark declaring before sweary Stuart's arrival that if he was driving a Jag they were likely to get on, but if he rolled up in a battered Corsa they wouldn't. Guess which of the two Stuart drives.

Both looked up for a fight and sure enough the two clashed - with reviewer Stuart criticising Mark's taste in art and decoration. But - and this was a point made by another reviewer later in the show - it's impossible to please everyone, so stop trying.

Mark clearly wasn't aiming his hotel at the market Stuart represents, and with 50 excellent reviews out of 88 and an overall average score of 4 out of 5, he has many fans who loved their experience.

Ricky the Reviewer

TripAdvisor TV3
TripAdvisor TV3
Ricky was the David Brent of reviewers, pinching sachets of sugar and putting pen marks on sheets to see how quickly they were replaced. Of course his requirement for a daily change of linen ("I have a skin condition") wasn't met - but how many hotels change sheets for the same guests on a daily basis?

Hotels have the right of response on TripAdvisor and a small number of oddball reviews should not be feared. Reply to them fairly and factually and they'll be seen by most people for that they are - eccentric viewpoints that should be ignored.

what can property owners take away from last week's show?

Promote the positives TripAdvisor features good reviews as well as bad. Take note of the criticisms and address them if they're fair, but promote the positives too.

â- Know your market Don't assume all reviewers are the same as you. People have different, tastes, standards and expectations. Know your market and focus on making sure your product is right for them.

â- Ignore the oddballs There are plenty of nutters out there - ignore them. Their reviews will be eccentric and they'll be seen for what they are.

â- Keep calm If you reply aggressively or arrogantly future customers will pick that up, so always respond calmly, clearly and fairly.

â- Accept TripAdvisor is important There's a reason why 26 businesses are reviewed every minute on TripAdvisor - it's because people want to share their comments and read the reviews of others. It's a good thing, so embrace it.

About the author

Daniel Johnson (www.danieljohnsonpr.com) is a public relations consultant for the travel industry. He was previously in charge of the TripAdvisor review policy for siblu villages, which has more than 1,000 reviews for holiday parks in France.

â- Attack of the Trip Advisors was shown on Channel 4 on 31 October and is available at www.channel4.com.

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