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Relevance of Online Ratings to the Hotel Industry

Online Marketing 5 Minutes
Internet portals such as TripAdvisor, HolidayCheck or are established players in the tourist industry and have become an essential tool in holiday planning. User ratings are an important aspect of these platforms, playing a key role in helping users decide at which hotels to book. According to HolidayCheck statistics, by December 2018 they had clocked up over 9.4 million users and on TripAdvisor, this exceeded 660 million.
Reasons for the importance of ratings to clients
There are seemingly endless options when searching for hotels, complicating the decision-making process, so the feedback of reviewers is a helpful guide. Thanks to their ratings, prospective users can gain a more accurate impression of the quality of an establishment and criteria used to assess it, facilitating a choice. 
Another reason why ratings matter lies in the behavioural patterns of those with the need for group identity. It’s easier to identify with people who are more similar to you, as you can trust their judgement and follow their advice. Since reviews on these platforms are posted by bona fide users, they are seen as having greater credibility as compared with advertisements or other forms of marketing, which are sponsored by the businesses themselves. 
Comparison of different reviewer types
As part of a study on the "Psychology of Ratings", HolidayCheck polled users about why they write reviews, and the results were grouped into 3 categories: 
  • The Considerate Reviewer:
    According to the results, 33% of the respondents said they wrote reviews because they want to help others find the right product or service. This category shows consideration for other users, trying to assist them by providing good advice and support.
  • The Optimizing Reviewer:
    At 27%, this is the second highest group, motivated by the desire to help the business or enterprise offering a product or service. This category wants to help the accommodation provider improve his service or to maintain his already high standard.
  • The Emotive Reviewer:
    Such reviewers might wish to voice complaints or be dissatisfied with the product or service. Conversely, they might want to commend a business for its good work. While the Optimiser bases his feedback on factual experiences, this type of reviewer reacts emotively.
    According to the survey, only 6% of the respondents said that they would consider writing a (positive) review if they were asked to do so by a provider. Despite offers of a reward (such as a raffle ticket or voucher) few such participants would feel sufficiently motivated to write a review.
Reasons for the importance of ratings to clients
According to TripAdvisor, most users are motivated to write a review in order to "help" other users. Their review might also be aimed at the service provider itself, letting them know what they think would require improvement. Critical feedback aimed at the establishment should be taken seriously, and seen as an opportunity to identify and correct problems. Needless to say, positive reviewer feedback will have significant implications for providers, attracting more potential clients. 
Positive ratings provide the basis for the preference of one hotel over another, thus increasing the number of bookings and helping a business to become more successful.
It’s crucial that accommodation providers achieve the right balance of positive and negative ratings. A 100% recommendation rate with exclusively positive reviews is sure to arouse suspicion among many users. According to the portal, in the absence of negative feedback, 30% of users will assume that the ratings are false or have been manipulated. Hotel reviews showing a mix of positive and negative comments are considered more realistic. Around 68% of users will be more likely to trust reviews containing both positive and negative feedback. 
Various studies and surveys show that online ratings can have a major impact on a hospitality business. Hotel ratings directly impact occupancy rates and thus turnover. What is referred to ‘online reputation management’, deals with online portals and ratings, while continuously updating content (i.e. images and texts about the services being offered) on the respective platforms. When looking to choose suitable accommodation, users rely to a large extent on the hotel portals and expect professionally-designed interfaces with exhaustive information and up-to-date profiles. Responding to user ratings and reviews is another important part of online reputation management. In doing so, hotels and other accommodation providers can show that they value user feedback and take potential criticism seriously. Most importantly, they demonstrate that the well-being and satisfaction of their clients matters to them. 
Response formulation:
In their response, it’s essential that hotels avoid resorting to stock answers and ensure that their reaction comes across as authentic and personal. When commenting on the specific issues raised, the reviewer should be addressed in person in response to his review. The service provider should take care to maintain a coherent style, using similar language and forms of greeting throughout the correspondence. 
When responding to negative reviews, the following are recommended:
  • Respond quickly and in a reasonable way, to try to satisfy the concerns of the complainant. This would forestall the possibility that other users might read the negative comments without there being an adequate response.
  • Thank the complainant, while making it clear that his feedback is appreciated.
  • Deal with the criticism head-on and apologize for being unable to meet their expectations.
  • In the event that the issue in question has already been dealt with, be sure to say so.
  • Invite the guest to spend another holiday at the hotel to demonstrate that the quality of the service is satisfactory.
Even if the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, there are some points to consider: 
  • Thank the guest/s for taking the time and effort to provide feedback.
  • Clearly express your appreciation for the praise received, noting that the hotel is committed to offering the best possible guest experience.
  • Acknowledge the invaluable contribution of your staff, especially if they’ve been singled out in the review.
  • Invite the reviewer to return to the hotel to enjoy another stay.
Since online reviews can have a significant impact on the reputation of a business, it’s necessary to continuously engage with users and their ratings. Daily review monitoring and a quick reaction are necessary in reaffirming the establishment’s commitment to quality, reliability, hospitality and good service. Businesses on the relevant travel and accommodation portals must take care to come across as professional and take special care when responding to reviews and ratings. Effective ‘online reputation management’ makes it easier to assess the level of guest satisfaction, implement improvements and corrective actions in order to attract more bookings and higher sales.