Online reviews from current and former travelers are vital to forming your destination’s online reputation. For instance, travelers use their mobile devices 83% of the time to research a trip before booking. What others are saying about your destination or attraction matters to travelers, so your tourism reputation management strategy should be given serious consideration.
This comprehensive guide explores proven strategies travel marketers should employ to actively monitor, manage and build their online reputation and credibility.
Conduct Sentiment Research Across Sites
In the introduction I mentioned that 83% of travelers are doing trip research on their mobile phones. You also have to consider how much research travelers are doing at home on their laptops as well. The point is, travelers will be doing a LOT of online research, and your destination or attraction must actively monitor the information that travelers will be reviewing, so you can manage your online reputation appropriately. Here’s some tactics to keep in mind:
- Monitor review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Travel, and Facebook for location-specific mentions. When a traveler begins researching a potential trip, review sites will be one of the first stops they make. You must be aware of what is being said about your location online, so you can build out a proper tourism reputation management strategy.
- Conduct social listening across platforms to analyze trends in perceptions, issues and reactions. This applies to mentions of your destination as well as competing attractions or locations. Figure out what’s working for you, and what’s working for others, and adjust your tourism reputation management efforts accordingly.
- Survey recent guests to see what they liked and disliked about their stay. Pro tip: Follow up personally with 4-star reviews and ask these guests what could have been done differently to earn a 5-star review.
- Audit star ratings, attributes and keywords frequently cited to identify strengths and weaknesses. Don’t focus solely on complaints, often guests will appreciate a feature of their stay that you may not be focusing your attention on. When guests are telling you that something is working, put a spotlight on it!
Being aware of what travelers like and dislike about your destination or attraction gives you the information you need to improve the guest experience.
Optimize First Party Review Generation
Focus on generating increased reviews from guests and visitors. Also focus on generating more positive reviews internally and via third party sites by:
- Email guests to encourage reviews. As part of the survey, ask guests to tell you at what point in their trip were they the most satisfied, for instance at the beginning, middle or end. Once you have identified the point during a stay where the average guest is the most satisfied with their trip, send an email asking for a review. Send a followup email 2-3 days after the stay ends reminding the guest to fill out your survey, if they haven’t already.
- On-site signage with QR codes to easily leave a review before departing. Track survey results of the most popular locations at your destination or attraction and place signage with survey reminders in these location. The idea is you want to give your guests a reminder to fill out a survey when they are most satisfied with their stay. Also make sure the signage encourages reviews on third party sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google Reviews.
- Offering incentives like loyalty points, discounts or free amenities to motivate contribution. By tying incentives to reviews from loyalty program members, you are encouraging your most satisfied guests to leave reviews, which is exactly what you want, especially on third party sites.
- Sharing positive feedback publicly to build social proof. Digital signage on-site can show guest reviews and social media posts from satisfied visitors. This also models the type of behavior you want current guests to exhibit, so include a call-to-action with signage encouraging guests to create and share their own feedback on their own social media accounts.
First party platforms allow you to highlight strengths through UGC.
Respond Skillfully to Negative Reviews
Negative feedback is inevitable. How you respond to negative feedback is even more important than the criticism itself. Here’s some tips to keep in mind:
- Respond professionally and calmly to critical reviews. Never get defensive, remember that your tone and energy will greatly dictate any future interactions with this guest as well as others.
- Empathize with their dissatisfaction and if a legitimate error was made, offer to make it right. Do NOT apologize for an error until you have confirmed that the error actually happened. Believe it or not, sometimes the customer IS wrong. It’s fine to apologize for their feelings when you first interact with the dissatisfied guest, but you should not apologize for something unless you know it happened.
- Let the guest know that you have considered their feedback, and clearly communicate what steps will be taken to address. This is vitally important if the interaction is happening in public such as via tweets or comments on a social platform. By letting the guest know that you are taking steps to address their complaints, it communicates to that guest and any potential guests viewing the interaction that you take complaints seriously. This communicates respect for the guest and it can help diffuse the situation.
- Consider inviting unhappy reviewers back as guests to change perceptions. This also communicates that you want to ‘make it right’ and that you want to prove to the guest that you have acted on their feedback in an effort to improve the situation.
- For unfounded claims or ‘fake reviews’, tactfully present facts or contact platform admins. Do NOT argue with a guest who has presented misinformation, it may not have been intentional. Politely correct the misinformation, and invite the guest to contact you directly (and more importantly privately) in order to address their concerns.
If criticism is handled correctly, you can often convert an angry guest into a passionate fan.
Promote Positive UGC Broadly
Regardless of the industry you are in, your best salespeople are your happy customers/guests/visitors. As we’ve already discussed, travelers will consult reviews and feedback left by other travelers before committing to a trip. So you want to do all you can to promote positive content created by your happy guests and visitors. Here’s some tactics you can use:
- Spotlight UGC in ads and across your digital touchpoints. Focus on sites that you know travelers will likely be using when researching an upcoming trip.
- Re-share guest content to your social accounts when permitted. UGC builds trust with fellow travelers.
- Aggregate video and visual content for compilation promotional reels. Pro Tip: Monitor social channels and if you find guests sharing content during their visit, contact them and ask if you can use their content. Offer perks such as loyalty points or room upgrades.
- Publish curated guest galleries on your website highlighting stellar experiences.
User content highlights your best salespeople: Your happy guests.
Continuously Improve based on Insights
Use ratings, attributes and feedback to guide ongoing enhancements:
- Identify recurring themes in complaints so they can be addressed systemically. Likewise, uncover recurring themes that are viewed positively by guests and develop a plan to leverage them.
- Develop improvement plans for locations or services suffering repeated low ratings. Track problems and collect feedback from guests on desired improvements. Make changes as possible, and then communicate to guests that improvements have been made, based on visitor feedback. This communicates to guests that you will act on their feedback.
- Look at highly rated competitors to identify gaps in the visitor experience.
- Align guest satisfaction with desired brand associations through data analysis.
Proactively managing your reputation leads to higher visitor satisfaction, and loyalty.
Today’s travelers heavily factor reviews into travel plans. By embracing authentic engagement, responding quickly to guest feedback, and continuously improving, tourism brands can turn even critics into vocal advocates over time.