When it comes to competing with hotel chains, independent hotels have a major handicap in terms of their marketing budget and resources. They don’t have a big name to hide behind, nor do they have millions of dollars to throw at a problem, hoping it will go away. So, naturally, they are at a disadvantage. Or are they?
The fact is that independent hotels can easily surpass their competition. An independent hotelier can make decisions on the spot that can create an outstanding guest experience, rather than having to go through multiple channels and get approval from thirty managers just to offer the guest a free pen. As an independent hotelier, you can also adopt a highly effective online reputation management strategy and implement it quickly without waiting for approval from a committee.
Online reputation management is essential for independent hoteliers. By improving your brand online, you will stand out from the crowd and attract more guests than you can handle. According to Google Think and Ipsos MediaCT, 69% of holidaymakers consult travel review websites, while 57% use online travel agencies, 56% use travel operator sites, 43% ask family and friends, 30% resort to magazines and brochures, and 24% consult social media. Notice that most of the resources travelers use are online, which is why it is critical to manage your reputation online effectively.
If your website comprises most of your online presence, then you need to expand a little. Today, a website isn’t enough anymore. You need to increase visibility by having a presence on travel review websites (like TripAdvisor), online travel agencies, and social media channels.
With so many online platforms available, you might be tempted to use as many as possible. Maintaining an active online presence, especially on social media, requires considerable time and resources. So, if you don’t have the resources to generate fresh content and engage with participants across the board, consider narrowing your focus to a few platforms where you know your potential guests hang out and engage with them consistently.
The essence of online interaction is communication. If people leave feedback or ask questions, don’t ignore them. You’ll only alienate everyone reading those comments. Instead, respond to everyone and be genuine and sincere. Don’t use canned responses because people will pick up on this and you’ll be sending the message that you feel indifferently towards your potential guests. Also, make sure that your wording conveys the attitude of your hotel. If you cater mainly to young, adventure-loving couples, then show that in your communication style.
An online presence isn’t just about advertising. In fact, only a small percentage of your messages should be focused on advertising. Instead, provide your potential guests with information they will find useful and valuable. For example, if your hotel is near a popular attraction, provide information regarding opening and closing times, special offers, and other key details. It might feel as if you are advertising the attraction, but what you’re actually doing is providing your potential guests with value, making you stand out from the crowd.
Providing your guests with an amazing experience should be at the core of your strategy. By consistently exceeding your guests’ expectations, your online reputation will essentially manage itself. You can also personally ask guests to leave reviews or use automated review collection tools to make sure you are receiving feedback without depending on your staff to send emails.
As an independent hotel, you can benefit greatly from investing in online reputation management because it will give you the opportunity to compete with big chains on equal footing. You gain the same level of exposure at practically no cost. Because of the personalized level of service you offer, you have a better chance of getting positive reviews that will help increase your popularity online as well as your bookings.