User-Generated Content in Hospitality

From the luxury resort to the neighborhood bed and breakfast, hotels all have one thing in common: guests. The General Social Survey (GSS) has long been the benchmark of performance in hospitality. But the popularity of review sites and OTAs is rising. Guests are writing hotel reviews on dozens of sites rather than filling out a GSS. They’re posting to Facebook and Twitter about their hotel experiences. They’re Instagramming their vacation photos. The guest experience is more visible than ever before, thanks to user-generated content (UGC).

UGC is media created not by professionals, but by your peers and your customers. It’s not particularly new—one can argue that it’s as old as the World Wide Web itself. But its use and consumption expanded dramatically in 2005 when the BBC set up a UGC content team. In 2006, UGC was featured as Time magazine’s Person of the Year, in which the person of the year was “you,” meaning all the people who contribute to user generated media like YouTube and Wikipedia. Today, it makes up a huge part of the information that is available to consumers, from digital video to blogging, podcasting, forums, social media, review sites, and wikis. Your guests are consuming UGC daily, whether on a computer, a mobile phone, or a tablet.

 

What does UGC mean for hoteliers?

It means that every day, more and more people are leaving feedback related to your property on sites like TripAdvisor. Furthermore, prospective guests look at these sites while deciding where to book their stays. According to a 2012 TripAdvisor survey, 93% of travelers look at online reviews before they book a hotel. 53% of travelers say they won’t book a hotel that doesn’t have any online reviews.

Many hoteliers already know that responding to hotel reviews is important for bookings, and a 2014 TripAdvisor study offers resounding confirmation. It found that hotels providing a management response to reviews are 21% more likely to receive a booking inquiry via TripAdvisor than those who don’t respond to any reviews. And properties that respond to over 50% of their reviews increase their likelihood of receiving a booking inquiry by 24% (compared to properties that do not respond to reviews).

Additionally, with technological advances and evolving consumer preferences, the traditional GSS has become problematic for hoteliers. Guests now prefer to leave feedback online. GSS participation rates are low because long-form surveys are cumbersome for the modern traveler.

Taking all this into consideration, it appears that hoteliers have an overarching problem with regard to guest feedback. Traditionally, their performance has been tied to GSS, and this has been a mainstay of hospitality for many years. Unfortunately, today’s guests are choosing to leave feedback elsewhere. This breaks down into two issues. Guests are leaving public feedback rather filling out a private GSS. Hoteliers have also not yet learned how to use this valuable content to their advantage.

 

How can hoteliers use UGC more effectively?

Make it the focus of their guest feedback strategy. There are several necessary objectives here. Hoteliers need to:

  • Enable more guests to write more online reviews and fill out surveys
  • Respond to reviews in a timely and appropriate manner
  • Extract strategic, actionable data points from guest feedback
  • Get familiar with sites like TripAdvisor, and the major social networks like Facebook and Twitter
  • Learn how to get the most value out of user-generated content

 

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