TravelDailyNews: The majority of travelers turn to Google when seeking travel inspiration, beginning with their accommodation search, and evaluating offerings between multiple hotels. How seriously must hoteliers consider their presence on Google within their marketing strategies?
Ben Jost: We recommend highly that hoteliers should consider Google for their marketing strategy. The study shows the impact a strong Google presence and displayed reviews have on travel search and bookings. Some of the easy ways to influence booking decisions on Google are: First, use a guest feedback software like TrustYou to better understand guests’ likes and dislikes. Our review summary is also displayed on Google. Second, encourage guests to leave a public review on Google to increase review volume and visibility which in turn could influence local search rankings. And last but not least, integrate your own review data on your website and use markup schema to help Google systems find your content. It may then appear in organic search results to increase direct bookings. On these last two points, TrustYou Stars can help you collect guest review content and seamlessly prompt for a submittal to Google.
TDN: There are many online 'paths' each traveler will follow before finally making a booking decision. How many such online 'paths' do you think can the market sustain?
BJ: This will ultimately be decided by the user. But for hotels I always give two main pieces of advice: First, make sure you can be booked on various channels - there are tons of softwares out there that can help you with that. Second, work on your hotel product. Guest feedback is critical data point, and is decided by guests’ preferences. If you have a great hotel product and you are able to tell everyone about it, which means you need to be transparent with your reviews, you need to gather them yourself. Then you need to distribute it to the market and the guests will find you and book your hotel. This might sound complicated, but it isn’t. Softwares like our guest feedback platform is built to just to that.
TDN: In what way does Airbnb affect -or even define- booking decisions online?
BJ: What fascinates me the most, apart from the new marketplace of private homes they created, is the fact that their platform is entirely built around the concept of trust. And trust again can only be measured by user feedback. Airbnb said from the beginning that they will put a high focus on the review and ratings and that it is important for users including hosts as well as guests, to trust each other based on the feedback and experiences of other users. I think the hotel industry can still learn a lot about the idea of trust and feedback and that price is just one important points of the equation. Users are increasingly looking for value and value is defined by combining price with quality. And quality is again measured through third party feedback.
TDN: Which is the No1 factor that will influence booking decisions of travelers in the future?
BJ: It is hard to say. But for sure the most underrated data point in the industry is still the perceived quality. Quality allows for much more personalization than a plain price point. As an example: Today there are hundred thousand people looking for a hotel between 150 to 200 dollars in New York, but the results are not personalized. What if travelers get information like “this hotel is ranked among the top 3% boutique hotels in the city and most of the couples that stayed here rated it as super romantic?” This personalized information is purely driven by third party feedback and can help travelers find the right hotels for their needs. We, at TrustYou, are on a mission to positively influence travelers’ decisions from searching the perfect hotel to having an ideal stay to be able to share their experience with all other travelers around the world.