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Exclusive: TripAdvisor’s Petersen talks Business

In an exclusive interview, TripAdvisor’s global President for Business, Christine Petersen, sits down with HM to talk about some of the major issues Hoteliers are facing with the popular social media review site at present and how properties can overcome them.

What are some of the major issues Hoteliers are raising with TripAdvisor?
Hoteliers often enquire about how to reach more travellers on TripAdvisor, how to respond to reviews and otherwise manage their listings on the site. They have also indicated that they appreciate more direct contact with TripAdvisor.
Hence we launched TripAdvisor for Business as a new division in 2010 to provide business owners and marketers with more resources and tools to help them drive more business and manage their online reputations. Our aim is to help hospitality businesses around the world promote themselves to the more than 60 million travellers planning their travels on TripAdvisor every month.
The TripAdvisor Management Centre gives owners access to an array of free resources, including our management response tool, that gives all businesses the ability to respond to reviews, the ability to manage their listing such as uploading photos and videos and receiving email alerts sent every time a review is posted on them.  We also offer tools to help owners encourage and collect more reviews.
According to a recent Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising report, 70 percent of the more than 28,000 Internet respondents Nielsen surveyed said that they trust consumer opinions posted online. Next to “recommendations from people I know,” this was the most trusted form of advertising.
TripAdvisor also offers Master Class events for the hospitality industry – free educational seminars, exclusively for hospitality professionals. At these seminars, representatives from hospitality businesses can meet directly with TripAdvisor representatives and other industry experts to get answers to their questions.  This year, we’ve held four such Master Classes in Sydney and Melbourne and hope to run more in the coming year.
Additionally, we collaborate with a variety of travel industry players, such as hotel associations and hospitality groups, around the world who provide us with insight into their members’ needs and concerns. These relationships have informed some of the enhancements we have made to the site over the years, such as strengthening our customer support team and Help Centre.

If I’m an Hotelier and I want to have a review taken down, why does the process take so long?
We welcome contact from business owners if they feel there is a suspicious or inappropriate review, and we investigate every enquiry. Hoteliers can report a review to TripAdvisor, either through the Management Centre or by using the ‘Problem with the review?’ link which is included on every review.
If a review violates our policies or we can determine that there is a problem with it, the review will be removed. However, simply disagreeing with the content of the review is not sufficient to justify removing the review. Our content team will respond via email to any dispute within 7 – 10 business days.
We recognize that there are two sides to every story and we want users on the site to hear business owners’ views as well as those of other travellers. So we also really encourage owners and managers to respond to reviews on TripAdvisor. The response appears right underneath the review, enabling travellers to read both perspectives. As travellers cannot respond to a management response, this effectively gives owners the last word.
The benefits of these responses really shouldn’t be underestimated.  A study we commissioned PhoCusWright to run showed that 84% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review “improves my impression of the hotel” and 78% of users agree that seeing a hotel management response to reviews “makes me believe that it cares more about its guests”.

What are some of the ways TripAdvisor is using cutting edge software to detect bogus/false reviews?
We’ve been monitoring and analyzing tens of millions of reviews over the last 11 years and are very switched on to spotting biased material.  The software we use is constantly being upgraded and monitors and evaluates hundreds of different attributes associated with electronic correspondence, including IP address, the type of browser being used and screen resolution of the device being used by the reviewer.
We have a global team of more than 90 specialists dedicated to this and each one has industry experience from credit card to travel related fraud prevention.  As best practice we also consult with fraud prevention firms and academics to ensure we remain leader in content based collection and that travellers can continue to use the site as a trusted source of information.

How is TripAdvisor partnering with hotels and chains to ensure minimize the impact and effect of bogus/false reviews?
The integrity of our content is clearly of paramount importance to us. Without it, we simply wouldn’t enjoy the loyalty of over 60 million unique monthly users, including more than 800,000 Australians. On this, feedback from our users in the above mentioned research is that 98% have found TripAdvisor hotel reviews to be accurate of the actual experience.  We want to ensure that the information that travellers are reading on TripAdvisor continues to remain as useful as possible and so not only do we dedicate time and resource in our systems and teams to managing the legitimacy of content, we also work with hospitality businesses.
TripAdvisor provides hospitality business owners with an array of free online marketing tools and widgets, all available in the Management Centre (www.tripadvisor.com.au/owners). Here, owners can choose widgets to place on their own websites to encourage reviews directly from their customers. They can also include a link directly to their TripAdvisor listing in post-visit emails to guests. We also work with some of the leading hotel chains in the world, such as Wyndham Hotel Group, Accor and Best Western to host almost identical tools on their sites.  All reviews collected via these tools are analysed using TripAdvisor’s proprietary software and are subject to our content policies.
Finally, as mentioned before, if a business feels there is a fake review on their business, we encourage them to report it to us and we will investigate every report.

How can hotels maximize TripAdvisor – what are your top five tips?
There are many ways that hotels can leverage their presence on TripAdvisor to reach new potential guests from around the world. We’ve seen some fantastic success stories with hoteliers discovering new target audiences and improving their customer service based on the feedback they receive from TripAdvisor travellers. The reviews on our site provide the opportunity for owners to learn more about what guests really want from a hotel and what makes a great customer experience.
With this in mind, it’s great to see that 64% of accommodations in Australia have at least one registered owner, which represents a 59% increase, year over year, in registered owners on TripAdvisor.
People are talking about Australian businesses so it’s important to take advantage of TripAdvisor’s tools and resources for owners. Here are our top five tips for making the most of TripAdvisor:

1. Register. We encourage all hoteliers to register for free with TripAdvisor first and foremost so they can gain access to free resources and online marketing tools to manage their listing on the site.

2. Add details and photos. Once registered, owners should add details about their properties, display amenities on offer at the hotel and upload photos so that travellers can get a good idea of what they can expect of the hotel.

3. Encourage more reviews. We ask hoteliers to encourage their guests to write reviews – using our custom cards, widgets and post-visit emails – to ensure that the property’s listing on TripAdvisor always has fresh content for travellers to consider before making their booking decision. We’ve also recently launched a ‘Full Review Form’ widget which enables hoteliers to collect reviews from their own website. The widget can be added to a business’ site and guests can complete the full review form without leaving the site. Reviews collected in this way go through TripAdvisor’s usual review integrity methods before being posted on the property’s TripAdvisor listing page.

4. Monitor and Respond. Hoteliers should monitor and respond to their reviews on TripAdvisor, taking into account the feedback they receive from guests and responding to their reviews. We provide email alerts so that owners can be notified every time a new review is posted, and the Management Response functionality is one of the most important tools on TripAdvisor.
Travellers like to see responses to reviews – according to a Forrester survey* commissioned by TripAdvisor, 76 percent of travellers said they have a more positive view of owners who respond to online guest reviews. In fact, 68 percent said that if they were considering two comparable properties, the presence of management responses on one would sway them in its favour.

5. Subscribe to Business Listings. For those hoteliers that want the possibility to increase direct bookings from their TripAdvisor page, we also recommend Business Listings which is a paid for subscription option. This allows properties to add their direct contact details, including their website, email address and phone number, to their TripAdvisor listing and post customised special offers.

*‘TripAdvisor Custom Online Survey 2010’, conducted by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by TripAdvisor, December 2010

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