Digital revolution in hospitality industry

Crowdsourcing in the hospitality industry became a leading player. The involvement of digital platforms in achieving a cumulative result is a gift to every traveler.

 Crowdsourcing in the hospitality industry has become a leading player. (photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)
Crowdsourcing in the hospitality industry has become a leading player.
(photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)

May is always the month when numerous hotel social media platforms are proud of being one of the recipients of the annual Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards. This American online travel company, with its famous website and free user-generated content, knows what marketing is all about. This spring, awards were announced and almost every hotel on the globe that got the certificate wants to take part in the celebration of presenting the badge award on their website and on the windows of their entrance doors.

“Tripadvisor is honored to continue to serve as the most trusted travel guidance platform in the world, and grateful for its community of travelers across the globe who continue to share their detailed and authentic feedback to make it easier for future travelers to discover great places to visit”, says the company in its recent announcement.

Another mega player is Google, with its own review platform, which is fully integrated into its existing search and maps empire. There is always a lot of buzz about hotel reviews on Google and over the years these feedbacks became extremely popular among travelers.

Both Tripadvisor and Google reviews provide free unlimited platforms for travelers to post their feedback. However, Vikram Singh, an American digital marketing specialist, is hesitant. In his popular blog he writes: “Online reviews left by strangers have become almost as trusted as personal recommendations. However, placing this much trust in reviews requires the user to be able to filter real reviews from fake ones. This sorting process can be extremely frustrating”, he states.

“Before the days of what we define as crowdsourcing, travelers booked hotels via travel agents that offered accommodations based on their business interests, earned commissions and personal interests”, says Dr. Lior Zoref, author, crowdsourcing researcher and speaker.

 NON-FUNGIBLE TOKENS: Irreplaceable digital tokens (credit: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Image) NON-FUNGIBLE TOKENS: Irreplaceable digital tokens (credit: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Image)

“The good of the customer was not the leading interest. Today’s online reviews platforms allow travelers to understand what their fellow tourists think. It is not perfect. However, the posted information should be examined carefully. When the number of reviews is high, the true opinions are reflected and we can be confident that the overall score is accurate.”

“In the past, the bigger lodgers were usually recommended at the expense of small boutique hotels that lacked financial power. Crowdsourcing is a revolution in the travel industry and hotels with good reviews get a good amount of guests, regardless of their limited resources”, he says.

Booking.com, a Dutch online travel agency for lodging reservations and other travel products, offers a different approach. “We believe that the only way to leave a review is to first make a booking. That’s how we know our reviews come from real guests who have stayed at the property. Followed by a trip. When guests stay at the property they check out how quiet the room is, how friendly the staff are and more. And finally, a review. After their trip, guests tell us about their stay. We check for naughty words and verify the authenticity of all guest reviews before publication”, they state.

Travel agencies

NUMEROUS RENOWNED online travel agencies pursue the same approach, allowing only proven customers that booked with them to post their feedback.

There is no need to emphasize that this competitive hospitality market creates a need for hotels to appear positively on these platforms. Managing online reviews by the hotels may be considered as a leading challenge nowadays. Is it really possible? The power is not in their hands.

Ayala Alt-Asher, who managed numerous boutique hotels in Israel and currently serves as a business consultant, says that guests post about noise, smell and cleanliness, and present real pictures of the properties are components that are extremely important for travelers.

“Hotels are aware of this continuous transparency. Service must improve and no shortcuts are in place. My customers are advised to keep loading counter professional images on those platforms and train reception staff to ask guests with positive experience to post their views online. At the same time, senior staff executives are advised to read and reply to every comment published on those sites”, she says. “Professionally, feedback from booking.com should be reviewed more carefully as it involves guests that actually stayed in the hotel. However, guests also write about a restaurant experience in the hotels and their reviews on TripAdvisor are considered as extremely important”, she says.

Avi Agajany, owner and general manager of A.A. Hotels, is one of the veteran figures in the Israeli hotels industry, with a 44-year career in numerous hotels as a manager and 18 years as a consultant, agrees with Ms. Alt-Asher. “I advise my customers to focus more on the booking.com platform. As a professional I believe it’s more appropriate to focus on proven guests that stayed in my hotels. Still, all online reviews platforms are becoming significantly crucial in the ultimate triangle: location, price and guest feedback. I am encouraging hotel staff in the front office and reception to chat with the guests on an ongoing basis and ask them constantly to fill in online feedback,” he says.

Ron Yariv, international hotels management consultant, provides a different angle. He reveals that due to the developing involvement of guests via social platforms, investors’ approaches are changing.

“Architects and designers are urged to plan a future trendy hotel that reflects the local environment or a unique theme. These hotels will attract guests significantly involved in social media. The images and videos they will post will cause the right buzz and the necessary traffic. At the end of the process, it will create positive feedback on online reviews platforms, which will bring additional customers”, he says.

“This design awareness started a decade ago with the correlation of social media’s massive influence on the travel industry”, says Yariv.

“Architects and designers are urged to plan a future trendy hotel that reflects the local environment or a unique theme."

Ron Yariv

Crowdsourcing in the hospitality industry became a leading player. The involvement of digital platforms in achieving a cumulative result is a gift to every traveler and to investors, architects and hotel designers, as well.

Information proliferation increases through online reviews platforms and social media. Usually, it creates an attentional bottleneck, favoring information that is more likely to be searched more carefully.

Don’t make shortcuts. Research and compare reviews from different platforms before making your final travel decisions. Travel crowdsourcing is a gift. Enjoy it.

The writer is the Travel Flash Tips publisher.