Hotels Are Now Embracing That Once-dreaded Mainstay of TripAdvisor—the Unvarnished User Review
When hotels began issuing a storm of lawsuits against TripAdvisor last winter, accusing the mega-review site of publishing false and misleading reviews, it seemed—after years of simmering resentment—as though a full-blown war might be on the horizon. But instead of a battle we got a détente, and a flurry of hotel companies are now announcing plans to integrate user reviews into theirownwebsites—either through partnerships with TripAdvisor or by launching their own programs.
What's prompting this about-face? Simple economics. A 2011 study by Boston-based global research firm Forrester found that close to 50 percent of consumers won’t book a hotel that doesn’t have online reviews. New York–based travel-research firm Phocuswright similarly reported last July that people who read online hotel reviews are 59 percent more likely to book. According to Henry Harteveldt, travel-industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group: “At this point, every major hotel brand should be thinking about how it offers ratings and reviews on its own website.”
And they are. The trend began withStarwood, which debuted its guest review program on starwoodhotels.com at the end of 2011. At press time, the site had more than 12,000 candid, unedited posts, ranging from “perfection” (the Chatwal, New York) to “very disappointing” (Westin Las Vegas Hotel, Casino & Spa). The key to its program: all reviewers are verified Starwood guests. TripAdvisor, which is still under scrutiny for the authenticity of its reviews, relies on staff and automated tools to weed out planted posts—a process that’s far from foolproof.