The Obsession with TripAdvisor

Last week I got a call from a client that wanted to discuss the hotel’s popularity index score on TripAdvisor. He wanted me to make sure we were accurately reporting the number because he had a hard time believing that despite all their efforts to focus on reviews, they weren’t seeing a big uptick on TripAdvisor. I assured him the numbers were correct and explained the popularity index as best I could.

TripAdvisor’s algorithm for determining the popularity index score takes into account quantity and quality of TripAdvisor reviews, guidebook ratings and comments from all over the Web. According to TripAdvisor, “the algorithm weights more recent information more heavily.” It’s a black-box algorithm meaning there’s no way to really figure out how much weight each carries and what other factors might go into the mix. It’s incredibly frustrating for diligent hoteliers, especially those at luxury properties that set goals to be at the top of the popularity index and find that they are being beaten by two star hotels.

In this client’s case, the market contains almost 200 hotels and his comp set, made up of four and five star hotels, ranges from 25 to 78. The number one hotel in this market is a Super 8. The number two hotel in the market is another Super 8. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Super 8 but when you operate a four-star hotel in a major metropiolitan city, it must be very frustrating to see your hotel rank below a budget chain. In fact, The Four Seasons, which I think everyone would agree rates incredibly high in guest satisfaction and exceeding customer expectations is only at 25.

So what should a hotel do in light of the algorithm? Here is some advice:

  1. Don’t give up hope. You can improve your score by encouraging reviews and making sure you deliver a great guest experience. Don’t become fixated on TripAdvisor. You will drive yourself crazy trying to figure it all out.
  2. Remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Check your score every week or so, but not every day or you’ll lose your mind.
  3. Don’t forget that a Four Seasons customer isn’t going to stay at Super 8 because it rates higher on TripAdvisor.

Finally, if you can help it, don’t set goals based on your popularity index score. It’s smarter to set goals based on a transparent number that doesn’t include a dash of mystery.  Instead, set a goal to always rate higher than your comp set average across the top ten review sites, or even on TripAdvisor. Revinate clients can easily track their success using the Rating Trend report.

And most importantly, don’t forget that ratings are extremely important, but don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees. Focus on quality and great reviews will follow.

3 responses to “The Obsession with TripAdvisor”

  1. This seems similar to the comparisons made in the survey between Premier Inns, Travelodge and some 5 star hotels in London. Premier was viewed by TripAdvisor users as higher rated than Travelodge and some 5 star hotels – one hotel ranking higher than the Dorchester.
    Premier beat Travelodge although achieved room rates were higher – a value comparison perhaps made between perceived value for money where service is less important than the tangable infrastructure of the facility.
    When price is high the other differentiation factors come into play. Responsiveness being a key factor and consumers have different needs beyond a cheapish, clean room with a TV. Reliability from one 5 star hotel to another will vary because of PEOPLE call employees (humans).
    Where your client will score is with empathy for their customers.
    In my investigations into TripAdvisor I found an hotelier who bought a lowly rated hotel and worked it over 5 years using the feedback to uprate the hotel – his profit came as he sold the hotel at the end of the 5 years.
    I feel certain that the scoring matrix used by TripAdvisor is often faulty and open to question as found by my MBA students who saw 3 hotels in their study of over 20,000 reviews which jumped 3 to 5 places in the five minutes the students were reading the reviews without any changes to the reviews of the hotel or those being studied surrounding them. But TripAdvisor is the best and most powerful review site available and all we can do is Pontiac out the shortfall and work with their present and future systems.

  2. Hi
    Good post and very interesting view to compare hotels per star rating. Although potentiel customers are seeing only ranking per city.I think you should also mention the ranking per city for hotel business. @alainclasse

  3. I wonder if there will ever by a time when review sites will be able to rate accommodation within their sector. That is a 5 Star hotel against 5 star hotel. One of our major concerns with our reviews on TripAdvisor is that they sets expectations too high. We are 3 and 4 Star accommodation with 5 Star reviews. This sets expectations far beyond what we can deliver. We can hold our own within our own sector but we don’t match the top 4 and 5 star accommodation.

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