Published on Thursday, February 19, 2015

Don't be scared of bad reviews

Richard Harrison, managing director UK for, explains why hoteliers should embrace guest reviews, even the bad ones.

Many have heard of the Blackpool hoteliers who fined a guest £100 for leaving a negative review of their stay at the hotel. While the hotel owners claimed that there was some kind of clause in their terms and conditions that banned people from posting negative reviews of their stay, the media didn't see it that way. To most people, levying a fine for someone posting honest yet poor feedback on the internet is not the right way to handle a complaint. Blackpool Council later forced the hotel to refund the fine and abolish the policy.

The internet, and the countless travel reviews posted on social media sites and blogs, isn't an inherent threat to the hotel industry. Reviews can be a useful source of feedback and a fantastic forum to show visitors that their opinion matters; that the business is willing to listen, engage with it's customers and improve it's service based on that feedback.

This is even more important following the recent publication of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) whitepaper - Online Guest Reviews and Hotel Classification Systems: An Integrated Approach (2014) - which raised the prospect of a future where hotel star ratings no longer stand alone, but are augmented by guest reviews.

An opportunity to win guests back

Negative reviews may sting at the time, but research has shown that 70% of customers are willing to return to a business once it has resolved their complaints. As part of the service industry, both positive and negative feedback is crucial to a hotel's success, and hotels that engage with their visitors and continuously work to address any issues raised will benefit in the long run.

Showcasing reviews

Using the hotel website to showcase both positive and negative reviews demonstrates that those running the hotel appreciate feedback and gives them a chance to respond and act on it. Publishing a negative review, alongside the official response can be a powerful way to show good intent (of course, this only applies if the response is constructive and addresses concerns raised, rather than hostile or dismissive).

Crafting a solid reputation

The service industry relies on its reputation, which is shaped by how it treats and caters to its clientele. Resolving customer complaints, and being helpful, rather than defensive when these complaints are posted on a public forum, creates a residual 'goodwill effect' for the hotel. Reasonable people understand that mistakes happen; it's how the hotel responds that really matters. Responding well online ensures that the hotel is seen in the best possible light, and not just by the initial reviewer.

Improved reviews lead to increased revenue

In 2011, the Harvard Business Review reported that an increase in one star in the average online review of a service business can lead to an increase in revenue of around five to nine per cent per star. When you consider that 52% of Millennials said that they were highly influenced by travel blogs, while 47% were highly influenced by travel themed photos posted on social media, it becomes clear just how important online reviews are for hotels.
Hotels need to monitor what's being said about them, respond to positive and negative feedback, and demonstrate change. Treated this way, reviews can be more of an opportunity than a threat and can help hotels stand out from their competition.

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