Solving the Guest Data puzzle for hotels to increase Revenue & Guest Satisfaction

The amount of data we as individuals share online has increased year by year.  From what we post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter gives a little insight into the type of person we are.  Over the last few years, we have seen companies starting to take advantage of the numerous amount of data we share every day.  For example, Google started sending me emails to remind me to leave feedback on the level of service from shops and businesses I had visited recently.  Shopping Centres are now assessing what stores you visit to personalise messaging to match your interests.  The “Big Data” era is upon us, yet Hotels have been slow to react to this change because trying to capture data from their guests without being intrusive has always been a puzzle.

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When I speak to Directors of Hotels, there is a belief that guests do not want to be disturbed, do not wish to fill in too many forms, clients do not like being asked too many questions about their stay.  But what about if by finding out just a little bit more about our guests, we can provide that unique personalised service that we all want to deliver.

So how can hotels achieve this in a cost-effective way and solve the Guest Data puzzle?  Here are a few ideas:-

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CRM/PMS

Well, let’s start with the most complicated part first, yet one you can start straight away – Keeping up to date guest information on your CRM or PMS.  Training ALL your staff to help build a strong profile of your clients is paramount.  From dates of birthdays to allergies, this is vital to avoid asking the same questions everytime your regular guests stay with you.  Active communication between departments is key to complete guest profiles.  Simple I know, but so many hotels miss this part out.  How many hotels have sent you a birthday greeting? remembered that you had a nut allergy?,  or a Thank you gift for staying 5 or more times at your hotel?  These are little details that say a lot to a guest and can make all the difference as well as helping to build a direct relation with the hotel instead of always booking your hotel on their favourite OTA!

Now, that the hard part is out the way, now onto the easy part – Using Technology to capture data.

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Social WiFi

If your Hotel or Resort hosts guests, especially from foreign countries, most likely as soon as they arrive at the reception desk, they are pleading for the username and password to access the WIFI, so they avoid roaming charges and can connect their IPad to watch their favourite series on Netflix. Now instead of just handing over the code, allow them to connect to your WIFI network via their favourite social media account or fill in a short online form.   There are some significant benefits for your hotel or Resort by doing it this way:-

  1. They become a fan of one of your Social Media Channels
  2. Email address, Country of Origin, Sex, Age and Date of Birth are all stored (Great marketing resource)
  3. You can pinpoint where people connect, so if you are hosting a conference, you will be able to segment between conference visitors, wedding invitees and in-house guests to personalise messaging.
  4. Instant Notifications of any events taking place that evening straight to those that are connected online to your hotel.
  5. Find out how your visitors react due to different weather conditions as you can see where in your hotel they are connecting which is correlated with the actual weather on the day.

Building a marketing database, increasing your social media fans and informing your guests of significant events taking place while they are at your hotel are powerful tools.  Social Wifi also connects into to your existing infrastructure so an extremely affordable way to generate Revenue and guest data which could come in handy, especially if you are currently in need of justifying the investment in improving the speed of your WIFI, a current dilemma for hotels & resorts.

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Concierge Apps

As an hotelier, we are always thinking about ways to improve what we offer and deliver what our guests want.  We want to find out but at the same time, we do not wish to be intrusive during their stay with us.  A unique and relatively new way for hotels to reach out to the clients is via Apps that can take advantage of either GPS or IBeacon technology.  Say your client was entering your garden restaurant, the app will automatically send a notification to your customer which could ask their opinion, advise them of any special offers or what is the dish of the day.  We are seeing more and more each day; guests are using concierge apps to ask for extra pillows, room service or book taxis.  All of this data is stored; so you can gain a pattern of your regular guests to determine the everyday needs and wants so you have them ready for their next stay without even asking!

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Yield Management

Award-winning software for booking engines can now source so much information, from lead times to average nights based on searches. From which page did they get to your booking engine or what was the weather like on the day they booked.  All fundamental questions so you can understand your Web visitors better.  By understanding what they are looking for, can enable you to promote the right deals and offers at the right time and obtain optimal rates on bookings.

By being smarter in the way you capture data, which you can then use to the benefit of your guests by providing a personalised service that will set you apart from the rest.  Guests share data all the time, Now it’s your turn to start to using it to enhance their experience with you and, of course, increase your overall revenue performance.

Require a strategy that enables you to understand better your guests whilst improving your hotels or resorts profitability?  Hotelient can help, email: info@hotelient.net to start the conversation.

 

Independent European Hotels are sleepwalking into an era of increased OTA dependency

For over 15 years that I have been within this industry, Independent hotels here in Europe have been always dependent on agencies, initially offline which then became online.  From the days of GTA (Gulliver Travel Associates) who were all dominant in the early days to now where booking.com has to some extent replaced GTA as the agent where hotels have allowed them to take over their inventory.

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We are though entering a new phase, where it has been clear for some time that Booking.com & Expedia have been implementing two very different strategies to maintain growth and market share.  Expedia has been expanding by acquisition with its latest buys of Orbitz, Travelocity, and Home & Away while Booking.com has been diversifying with its purchases of Buuteeq, due in part to the competition on the horizon from Google & Airbnb.  The recently announced deal that saw booking.com providing global inventory to Tripadvisor Instant Booking effectively makes them now an OTA.

Over the last few years, Tripadvisor has been worked extremely hard in cultivating a positive relationship with hoteliers while reviews, thanks to them, have become an ever more important part for hotel directors to focus on to ensure excellent guest comments get published.  Some hotels have even gone as far as directing their hard-won traffic from their website to their page on Tripadvisor (which also sells your competitors).  Behind Reception, there are now certificates and plaques of excellence from booking.com and Tripadvisor occupying pride of place.  However great these actions are, hoteliers are feeding and promoting the very agencies online that send them business with a 15-20% commission bill.

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We have also seen that OTAs including Tripadvisor investing heavily in user experience, making it easier for you to book a hotel whether from a desktop or mobile device.  From confirmations sent straight to your phone to personalized marketing which provides you with useful suggestions based on your searches.  Due to their size and power, they have the resources and investment to take advantage of the amount of data available to ensure a great user experience.  Most hoteliers would be the first to use booking.com for their business travel as all their personal information is stored there.  Booking engines for the independent hotelier are also sometimes too focused on revenue management techniques rather than user experience.  Book your hotel on booking.com, then on your site, how does it match up?  There are some great products out there.  One of my personal favourites and internationally recognised as being one of the best is GuestCentric (www.guestcentric.com).  Its multi-award winning booking engine is focused on providing a unique user experience with data capture at its heart.

So why are hotels sleepwalking into increased OTA dependency?

The answer is simple – laziness.  With the changes within our industry I have mentioned, it is most likely that there will be an increase in competition within the OTA distribution space.  Tripadvisor becoming an OTA is a big game changer, especially as they are in the top 3 of most visited travel sites.  Google, being still the number one search tool and its total dominance on smartphones could become a valuable player.  These changes if left unsupervised, will allow them to eat into even more of your inventory, especially if you are openly promoting them from your own website.  Hotels can though be smart at collecting guest data via inexpensive methods such as Social Wifi.  Booking engines and websites can be improved to provide a better user experience and to interact with your guests using Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger can provide that special attention to detail.  All the above can be done cost effectively and implemented seamlessly, so you can focus on providing your guests a unique experience while starting the process of slowly decreasing your OTA dependency.

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Currently, in Europe, almost three quarters (74%) of independent hotel reservations comes from an OTA (Source: Phocuswright).  Now just imagine if we got that figure down just 10% by being smarter with how you connect to your guests and users on your website.  Marketing online is not just about PPC campaigns; it requires a more holistic approach which takes advantage of the very latest technology to improve your hotel in 3 ways 1)Data Collection 2)Online user experience and 3)Guest communication.

OTA´ s are a fundamental part of your online distribution, but they should not be your only focus.  Make 2016 the year your hotel started reversing the trend of increasing dependency on OTA´s and start building a solid platform to increase your direct online reservations.

Need help in planning the right online marketing strategy for 2016?  Talk to us, email info@hotelient.net

 

 

Upselling and cross selling – The key to increasing TREVPAR performance for hotels and resorts

The pressure on independent hotels can sometimes be immense, from offering the best price in an extremely competitive market to ensuring that you are providing a unique and memorable guest experience. Sometimes, though, despite all our best intentions, many clients never actually find out about everything you offer.  Our beloved guest directory in the rooms is more times than not never opened or the flyer we leave on reception doesn’t get seen.  There are so many points of contact that a client has with your staff that sometimes that gentle hint or suggestion by a receptionist or waiter can open the door to a potential increase in sales of the many different services you offer.

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Upselling and Cross Selling are not new techniques; they have been around for years. However, Hotels have been slow to adopt methods that a)have been used by airlines ever since the launch of low cost and b)can make the difference to your profit margins.

So how are hotels increasing TREVPAR (Total Revenue per available room) from introducing to their staff Upselling and Cross Selling techniques and initiatives?

Let me tell you about my personal experience.  Two years ago, I contracted HBD Consulting (www.hbdconsulting.es) a company that specialises in training staff on how to interact with your guests to drive revenue from a previous role at a Hotel.  They reviewed our current internal marketing structure and how we communicate with our guests.  They also put together an incentive bonus plan for all guest-facing staff.  After the initial training sessions, there is a continual assessment to ensure best practises have adhered too.  The six months that then followed, we took a check on the results achieved.  My staff produced over 40,000€ in increase in revenue which consisted of the following:-

  • Upgrade of rooms
  • Dinner reservations
  • Late Check out
  • Toiletries
  • Golf Lessons

Services such as parking,  breakfast in your room, theatre tickets and romantic packages can also be suggested. Anything that can be done to make the guest experience more memorable.

We also saw an uptick in average restaurant spend as waiters were taught to help and advise guests, based on dishes the kitchen wanted to be pushed,  as well as moving wine that needed to be sold to reduce and rotate stock.  Staff morale was also improved especially in departments where there is little opportunity to increase their wages.

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Future of upselling and cross selling with Technology

There is a general recognition within our industry that, two things are essential to compete in the future 1. Provide compelling and unique guest experiences and 2. Connect and interact with your clients more fluidly.

These are the two very principals of which Upselling and Cross-selling are based and which technology can only enhance.  Concierge apps for smartphones and tablets are leading the way in bringing your guest service directory to a smartphone and make it easier for your client to interact with your staff.  Instant push notifications that promote events and services that you have available during their stay and in a format that 90% of your clients will read while at the same time making it easier for your customer to find out, book and buy your services throughout your hotel.

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Social Wifi is another important factor as this is also a great option to connect with not just your hotel guests but also delegates to a conference or wedding invitees.  No opportunity should be missed to provide service and up-sell, enhancing the overall experience of a guest’s stay

By developing your staff’s techniques to improve their ability in Upselling and Cross-selling strategies, as well as introducing new ways on which your guests can interact with you, is why hotels who have taken this leap forward are already reaping the TREVPAR revenue rewards from doing so.

(HBD Consulting is a global leading provider of Upselling and Cross Selling techniques that help hoteliers drive revenue and increase GOP performance.  Comprised of a team of professionals with over 25 years experience in the hotel industry. Founded in 2007 their aim is to provide up selling and cross-selling solutions through proactive training courses. Over 35,000 people were trained in 2014 from 10 countries).

Hotelient (www.hotelient.net), a leading provider of guest marketing solutions for independent hotels and Resorts, has partnered with HBD Consulting (www.hbdconsulting.es) to increase the potential of hotels to improve their overall revenue performance and guest experience.  For more information email info@hotelient.net

 

 

 

Investment in technology not a priority for Independent Hotels in 2016

Last week was the premier tourism event in Spain, FITUR.  A good chance to take a check on what is the current sentiment with hotels towards the many changes taking place within our industry.  What was a worrying sign, at least for the majority of independent hotels at least, that are located in Europe is that they are totally unprepared and in some cases unaware of the importance of how they should be connecting with their future guests.

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On the technological side, Spain has seen an incredible amount of new starts up offering a range of services to the hotel industry.  From apps to social wifi, the new kids on the block are there to help the independent hotel formulate a strategy of building a solid foundation, to increase not only their direct business but also a unique personalised guest experience.  Powerful and convincing talks by Andy Stalman (@AndyStalman) during FITUR explained how hotels can achieve this.  There were also open discussions by the major Spanish hotel brands discussing how they are using technology to connect with their guests and providing unique experiences.  The technological advances and the embrace by major chains to adapt to this reality have clear benefits for an industry that has only in the past couple years, actually started to invest in a form of communication that guests have been using in the day to day lives for a while now.

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The above advances through contrast with a view of the majority of hotel directors of independent hotels that feel the cards are stacked against them.  That booking.com is all too powerful and that Tripadvisor is going to become their new revenue source.  In a nutshell, there is a overall sense of resignation that the 2 or now three main OTA´s if you include Tripadvisor holds all the cards.  As always, there are exceptions.  Some hoteliers realise they have to connect with Google to gain increased visibility online,  that Social Wifi can be a cheap and cost effective way of building a stable market database or Concierge Apps increase overall revenue as well as build guest loyalty, however, they are in the clear minority.

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Hoteliers, just like in the years when GTA (Gulliver Travel Associates) was the booking.com of today, times change.  Hotels who are dependent on booking.com will become just as dependent on quite possibly Google or Airbnb in the future.  What stays constant though is their has never been a better time for a hotelier to invest in technology that offers the best chance to increase a dwindling revenue stream for many – direct bookings.

As we enter a post rate parity era and the continued evolution of our industry, hotels can start taking the first steps to improving their direct bookings.  Here are few pointers to help you on your way.

  • Some Booking engines are perfect for revenue managers but a minefield for clients.  Compare yours with booking.com and see how it stacks up
  • Social WIFI – By getting you guests to connect to your FREE WIFI through their social media accounts should be a no brainer for hotels.  Not only do they get more followers, but you also get their email address, that can be added to your marketing database.
  • APPs- Concierge Apps should be a must by providing your guests information about your hotel including offers, events and much more.  According to recent surveys, 85% of smartphone users prefer apps to mobile websites.  They also reduce your printing cost on flyers and new guest directories
  • Reputation online is essential to increase your visibility on Google & Tripadvisor and drive business back to you directly

For a more in-depth guide, read this recent article

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Independent hoteliers need to react to these changes soon or yet again, we will be allowing major Agencies and companies determine our future.  For example, Tripadvisor is your frenemy,  they provide a page where they host your guest reviews and dish out awards too! However, they also sell your competitor on your review page and with the latest agreement with booking.com incentivise your guests to book via them too!  So stop sending your future bookers to TripAdvisor to see your guest reviews, let them read on your website and convert them into direct bookers whilst they are there.

For all the regular news that gets published on the latest advancements in new partnerships and advances in technology, it is clear that only the major chains have been listening.  The time is now that Independent hoteliers take note and start taking action before it becomes more and more difficult to increase profit margins as well as dealing with increased agency dependency.

Hotelient provides hotel & resorts with a strategy and vision based on experience and results achieved to increase your direct bookings.  Email us info@hotelient.netinfo@hotelient.net for more information.

 

 

 

5 simple tips to increase your reservations with photos & videos

We all know that photos and videos are a great way to sell your hotel or resort right?  So why is it one area where the majority of hotels have under-invested!  We are living in an age where photos and even more so videos are taking on a greater importance.   The way we all connect and interact online makes it difficult for you get your hotel to stand out from the crowd and show why you are different and better than your competitors.

In 2015, just having a picture of your exterior, lobby and bedroom doesn´t cut it.  You have to entice your prospective guests through original photos and videos.  What are your unique features?  Why are you different?  Do you have unique personalities within your team that your clients love?

Here are five simple tips to show you how to get the most from your photos and videos which will help increase your visibility and reservations:-

  • Planning – Before you even call a photographer, you need plan what photos you think the best show off your hotel.  Look at guests comments to gauge how clients see you, which parts of the hotel do they think are your strong points?  Preparation is key by having Flowers,  extra amenities.  fruit platters, suitcases, cocktails or champagne ready to decorate your rooms, bars lobbies etc.  If you have the budget, organise for a professional to decorate the spaces you want to photograph.  Warm, open faces speak thousands of words in a picture,  ensure your staff are aware that there is photo shoot taking place.   Again, if you have the budget, use models who can help you show what your guests can enjoy when they are staying with you. From drinking a glass of champagne on the terrace overlooking your swimming pool to enjoying a dessert at your buffet restaurant.  By being clear beforehand and knowing what you want, will allow you get the most from your photos.  Also, if your hotel boasts MICE facilities, Spa, Golf, etc., these also need to be prepared and decorated.  A photographer does not know your hotel; you do!

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  • Investigate – We would all love to have a big marketing department helping us, coming up with great new original ideas for creating photos and videos for your hotel or resort.  The reality is that most of the independent hoteliers cannot afford that luxury, but what we can do is look on the web and source ideas that can be adapted to your hotel.  One of my personal favorites promotional hotel videos (Shown below) was Nobu Hotel @ Caesars Palace.  They show off the whole hotel in a video that is original and engaging.   The key is to explain to your video producer is a concept that suits your target audience (business, couples, families, etc.) so that they can translate it into a video for you.
  • Editing – Once you have an excellent selection of impacting and beautifully presented photos.  The next stage is to get them adapted for your various social media pages, website, and other pages which publish your hotels photos.  Another great technique is to add a few words to each photo to perfectly describe them and show off your major strengths for example “Deluxe Room with fantastic views” or “Free High-Speed WIFI.”

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  • Publishing – With your selection of photos and videos now ready, ensure that all your agents, website, OTA´s and social media update their pages with these new images.  There are services that you can contract which can help you with this process.  The key is that wherever your prospective guest finds you, they see the same photo.
  • Don´t Stop there!! – Once you have your hotels, official photos and videos completed, which you should update once every couple of years.  You can now start to build an excellent collection of pictures of some of the many significant events, celebrities that you host at your hotel.  Videos of guests commenting about their stay are also very compelling.  If you have a cocktail bar then why not a quick  1 min video showing your guests on how to make the perfect cocktail like shown in this video below from Iceland Air Hotels.  Be creative and original, videos and photos are great at promoting what kind of guest experience your future clients can enjoy.  We all have a fantastic camera and video recorder on our smartphones, just hook them up to a tripod and with a little help from programs such as Camtasia and you will be well on your way!

Have fun, allow your staff to participate, they can also be a source of new ideas.  By updating your current photographs and videos as well as generating fantastic new content, will provide your guests who are viewing your hotel to understand in greater depth why you are unique and why they should choose to stay with you rather than one of your competitors.

Are you frustrated that your online bookings are not increasing?  Email us at info@hotelient.net for more information on how Hotelient can work with you to implement a proven online strategy that delivers results.

 

How Facebook messenger can help increase guest satisfaction and RevPar performance

Hotels have in general been slow at introducing new ways to connect and interact with their guests directly to their mobile, especially considering a vast majority of your clients are already using a smartphone daily!  Users spend more than one out of every five minutes on Facebook via their mobile.  Facebook also announced recently that more than 700 million monthly active users engage with Messenger. Think about how you communicate with your friends and family today.  From organising a night out to arranging a get together at Thanksgiving.  We have become so accustomed to Instant messaging being an important part of the way we communicate with others.

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Over the past couple of years, we have started to see major companies like Tesco, Audi and more recently El Corte Ingles in Spain beginning to use Facebook messenger as a new tool to connect with their customers.  More recently, Hyatt was the first hotel chain to announce that they were testing a new guest service channel using Facebook´s new “Businesses on messenger”, available currently only in the US

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Hotels & Resorts are also starting to be aware of a higher amount of guest interactions from a smartphone for complaints, questions or posting photos.  Clients want solutions in real time, from dealing with a complaint to booking a table in the restaurant,  or just finding out what they can explore within your local area.    Reservation confirmations, which are usually sent to emails are one-way forms of communication which don’t provide your guest an opportunity to personalise their stay further.  Facebook Messenger can also provide a better online booking experience by offering real time support for the user to navigate through the transactional parts of a booking and improving the overall user experience.   Interacting with your clients in real time is becoming a necessity for hotels, especially as it will help improve guest experience and satisfaction that leads to increased revenue performance.

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So how can you implement this into your hotel operation?

  • Which department should be responsible for responding to guests?  Offering messaging in real time needs to be available 24/7, so reception would be the logical choice.  They must ensure that the are always online on messenger, so having the page open on one of the back office computers is ideal.
  • Ensure that all your marketing material throughout the hotel, as well as online via your web, booking engines as well as your descriptions on Tripadvisor, Booking, etc., include that you provide 24/7 real-time guest support on Facebook Messenger.
  • Interact with your guests, rather than reacting will allow you to anticipate your clients wants and needs, sometimes before they even tell you!
  • Connecting with your guests on a personal and emotional level will also enable your team to build relationships and trust that will allow your hotel to increase guests satisfaction and reservations booked directly overtime.

All of us are so accustomed to using instant messaging,  so it should be only natural that hotels & resorts are exploring new ways to interact with their guests and offer that personalised experience that every hotel wants to provide.

Hoteliers should also be aware that as Google starts to become an OTA; Google Now will also be in the not too distant future, an important part of your guest communication strategy.

Hotelient provide guest marketing solutions to Hotels across Europe If you like to find out about more ways to connect to your guests and increase your RevPar performance, email info@hotelient.net for further information.

 

 

How to spot a dodgy reputation optimization company with 3 simple questions and keep TripAdvisor´s Steve Kaufer happy!

As Steve Kaufer CEO of Tripadvisor mentioned in his recent letter (see below) to hotel owners and managers that there are a number of companies in the market place that are promoting to hotels, offering  you lots of fake positive reviews on Tripadvisor instantly, without contacting a single original guest.

Companies like Tripadvisor are now actively clamping down on this type of activity called “Reputation Optimization”. This could lead to your account being suspended by Tripadvisor and other sites.  In order to help you spot one of these dodgy companies, I have come up with these 3 questions that you should ask them:-

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1.Will your company get my hotel higher up the Trip Advisor listings?

The answer  is no.  The only way to improve your rating on Tripadvisor is by your staff & marketing team being proactive, and asking your clients who have stayed at your hotel to write a review on their stay.  What you can do is direct your guests to leave their reviews on Tripadvisor and Google.  This can be simplified by using feedback pages and auto responders.  By organically growing the quantity & quality of reviews  to Tripadvisor & Google, you can improve your rankings and visibility. Ranking well on Google and Tripadvisor will help you get more bookings, as both of these channels allow guests to make reservations. This is how reputable companies like Hotelient help their customers.

2. How much will you charge me for each positive review to bump up my Trip Advisor rating?

You should NOT be charged for positive reviews. Every review you receive should be from a genuine hotel guest.  When someone leaves your hotel a great review on Tripadvisor or Google, it is because your team has worked hard to earn it!  What hotels should be doing is shouting a bit louder about their great feedback.  Reviews should be posted on your Web Pages, social media networks. Smarter hotels use companies like Hotelient to create review commercials for them to share on You Tube, social media etc.. Telling the world how great your hotel is, and by using creative ways to spread the word about your great reviews will result in you attracting more customers to your hotel.

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3.Is there any way I can get into trouble for engaging you to artificially bump up my reviews?

The answer is YES! Review sites like Tripadvisor will take the strongest action possible against you and the company you have paid for false reviews. Your hotel could be suspended by Tripadvisor and other sites which will have a detrimental affect on your hotel.  If Tripadvisor see that you suddenly have an abnormal amount of positive reviews over a short period of time, alarm bells will start to ring and they will investigate whether the reviews are genuine or not.  If your reviews are legitimate then you have nothing to worry about, but is they find your reviews come from an IP address in an unusual location for instance..then you’re in trouble!! Best practise is to implement a process to get a review from every single guest that stays at your hotel.

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Your hotels Reputation online is extremely important to increasing RevPar and continued guest satisfaction.

Companies like Hotelient info@hotelient.net, that offer Reputation Management & Marketing solutions will provide your hotel with feedback pages, auto responder’s and other tools targeted at your guests to encourage them to leave genuine reviews and feedback. This is the way to do it!! Be very careful that you do not engage with a company offering you fast solutions by providing fake reviews, it could end up costing you very dearly and your hotel may not recover from a suspension on Tripadvisor and other social media  outlets. Genuine reviews from  genuine guests obtained by the hotel through their own feedback system supplied by a reputable Reputation Management and Marketing company is the key to success.

If you would like to find out more on how Reputation Marketing solutions can help your hotel, visit our web or email info@hotelient.net