Online Guest Reviews Gaining Momentum; Good News for Independent Hoteliers

Think guest reviews aren't that important to your ongoing web strategy? Think again. In a recent USA Today article titled "Hotel giants embracing guest reviews — good or bad," author Barbara DeLollis reports that some of the world's biggest hotel companies are adding customer reviews of their hotels to their own websites "betting that their best customers will put more faith in reviews that are on their websites because they — unlike TripAdvisor — have the ability to confirm whether a review writer really checked into that particular hotel." The good news for independent hoteliers is that an easy-to-use and extremely affordable Guest Review System is available from Lodging Interactive that enables them to mirror — and even surpass — these brand initiatives.

In the article, DeLollis reports that Starwood, Marriott and Four Seasons already have their own customer review-posting portals, and Hilton, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) and Radisson are in the processes of evaluating or launching programs later this year. IHG Marketing Vice President Michael Menis was referenced as saying . . . "reviews are important because they play 'an important role in helping a customer make their ultimate booking decision.'" Likewise, Hilton Senior VP of Global Online Services Chuck Sullivan, was quoted as saying: "Consumer reviews are a very positive thing. They help provide customers with a real understanding of a property. We believe that direct channels — specifically, our Web brand hotel pages — have to be seen by the guest as the ultimate source of truth."

Truth in Advertising
With so many brands either leaning towards a proprietary web-based guest review program, or already implementing one, Vallauri said consumers will soon expect it to be a standard part of every hotel's website. Lodging Interactive’s Guest Review System is leveling the playing field for independent hotels by giving them a tool that is quick to implement today and enables them to compete with the big boys while also enhancing their web strategy.

"Recent studies confirm that more than 60 percent of online shoppers and travel planners visit and seriously consider peer-written reviews prior to making their online purchase," Vallauri said. "Being able to monitor what people are saying about their individual property 24/7 is important, but enabling guest reviews to reside on your website gives hoteliers the opportunity to respond in real time to posted reviews — good or bad — thereby keeping potential problems in check.

"Through the Lodging interactive Guest Review System, any independent hotel that wants to validate and respond to reviews today can do so on their own website, and with no capital investment," he said. "Our Guest Review System makes it easy for travelers to share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends. It's a tool that independent hoteliers need for their properties, but without the cost of development."

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The Wilshire Grand Hotel Raving about Lodging Interactive’s Guest Review System

The Wilshire Grand Hotel is taking control of its online reputation by implementing the new, web-based Guest Review System from Lodging Interactive. This tool enables The Wilshire Grand Hotel to verify, review and display customer comments directly on its Website, and instantly post management responses to comments for better hotel-to-guest communications and heightened customer-relationship management.

Lodging Interactive is an interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. The company's Guest Review System posts traveler's comments and scores their hotel experiences based on service attributes. Hotel managers receive real-time alerts advising when pending guest reviews pop up, eliminating delays in addressing concerns and turning potential problems into new opportunities.

"I'm a big believer in soliciting guest reviews, but unfortunately, due to the nature of the Web, there's no real way to validate whether or not a person claiming to be a guest with a bad experience actually stayed at your hotel," said General Manager Ed Reagoso. "The Guest Review System from Lodging Interactive puts a stop to fake reviews posted by competitors or dishonest guests looking for refunds. This not only helps us to maintain our impeccable reputation, but it gives me an opportunity to interact personally with our guests. When travelers take the time to honestly talk about their experience, it should be recognized and rewarded with an immediate reply.

"Thanks to the automated GRS tool, I can personally post responses to comments quickly,"
he said. "Not every hotel review site makes that type of interaction possible. It's not only great customer service, but it gives me the chance to really sell our hotel. Almost daily our reservations agents hear from guests who say they read the reviews on our site and truly appreciate that we took the time to respond. We attribute it all to Lodging Interactive and the excellent training they provide to us as part of their service."

An added benefit of the Guest Review System is that it enables travelers to share their reviews on Facebook with their network of friends. Hotels are notified in real-time of new guest reviews and have the ability to validate guest stay information before reviews are posted on their website.

"Lodging Interactive does an exceptional job for The Wilshire Grand Hotel of optimizing our web presence and providing us with the tools and training we need to truly enhance our guests' experiences and keep them coming back again and again," Reagoso said.




Lodging Interactive, CoMMingle Capitalizing on 10 Years of Success

German Philosopher Albert Schweitzer said: "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."


Lodging Interactive, an interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, and its subsidiary CoMMingle, a social-media marketing consultancy, is proof that happiness and success go hand in hand. Coming off a banner year of accomplishments and award winning web designs for its customers in 2011, the 10-year young group is elated over incremental company growth, and each attributes its successes to the winning online campaigns created by a team of dedicated hospitality professionals. New business partnerships, financial service models, mobile website offerings and content management toolkits to be unveiled in 2012 position Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle for another monumental year.

"It takes a team to be successful, and at Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle, we are fortunate to have a team of more than 50 highly skilled web experts who truly like working with our customers and each other," said D.J. Vallauri, Lodging Interactive President and CEO. "Couple that with more than 650 hotels, resorts, spas and restaurants around the world who depend on us for website design and management, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and measurement and accountability services, and it's easy to see why we are happy to come to work every day. Sprinkle in top honors achieved, such as the 2011 Interactive Media Award and Travel Weekly's 2011 Magellan Award for website designs, and we are ecstatic. 2012 is truly going to be the year of social media and mobile marketing, and Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle are eager to serve."

According to Vallauri, both companies grew substantially in 2011, over 2010. Lodging Interactive acquired 50 new clients in 2011, and CoMMingle followed close behind with 40 full service clients.

It's an exciting time to be a Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle partner," Vallauri said. "In 2012 we will introduce new services for both lines of business, as well as launch new breakthrough business models for hotels. Anyone looking to better plan, socialize, engage and measure in 2012 will find that we have the focus, expertise, longevity and results they need. It's going to be a very Happy New Year with Lodging Interactive and CoMMingle as your online marketing partner."

Lodging Interactive Podcast Reveals What’s Hot in Social Media & Marketing

Looking for the latest digital marketing predictions and mobile trends data? Then click on HotelCast 2.0, a free podcast produced by Lodging Interactive that is delivering hot information on search engine optimization, including new Google incentives and options for advertisers, and Facebook's plan to add social likeability and sentiment measurements to improve ad relevance. In addition, hear how Lodging Interactive's Guest Review System is helping hotels take control of their guest reviews by stopping potential guests from using third-party review websites where they may never return or worse, book a competitor’s property.

"HotelCast 2.0 is the best 10 minutes a hotelier can spend getting up to speed on social media
marketing and search engine optimization," said D.J. Vallauri, Lodging Interactive President and CEO. "This podcast has quickly become a hospitality hot spot that enables busy hoteliers to get the information they need quickly to stay in the know and 'in the now' about the ever-growing,
ever-changing world field of online and social marketing.

"One of the biggest things we are truly excited about in 2012 is our Guest Review System," Vallauri said. "Market research shows that more than 75 percent of online travel buyers will consider consumer reviews prior to making their online travel purchase. Lodging Interactive's GSR is a web-based review-management system that empowers hotels to collect their own guest reviews and post management responses on their websites. Hear how hotels are benefitting by letting consumers post their comments and score their hotel experiences based on service attributes, and learn why sharing guest reviews on Facebook and other social media channels can keep hotel management and owners better protect their online reputations in real time."

Podcast Promotes Predictions

Also on HotelCast 2.0, Matt Lawson, vice president of marketing for Marin Software, serves up five digital marketing trends to watch out for this year. Topping his list is Google's new offerings to advertisers created to counteract Facebook's rising popularity. Hear how Google continues to innovate its advertising products to maximize online advertising dollars.

Finally, Greg Sterling, a contributing editor at Search Engine Land, makes 12 Mobile predictions for 2012, including: Smartphones penetration will rise to 65% by year end in the U.S.; Google and Microsoft will beef up their voice offerings to better compete with Siri; Apple will launch its own mapping service for iOS; Tablet computer sales till top out at 100 million units this year, with the iPad taking 65 percent of the market; and Amazon will purchase a mobile ad network.

"Greg's predictions in 2011 came true, so it will be very exciting to see if his '12 for 12' will be equally as insightful," Vallauri said. "To hear how your hotel can leverage the power of social media, including how CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive is helping hoteliers avoid pitfalls and risks associated with online marketing, tap into HotelCast 2.0."

The next edition of HotelCast 2.0 will broadcast in April 2012.

Lodging Interactive Offers 5 Tips to Making Web Strategies Fresh

If visitors to your website are receiving stale information from random search engines, Google's new "Freshness Update" (which effects how the popular search engine brings up results for searches) may be your hotel's new best friend. Lodging Interactive, an award winning interactive and social media marketing agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry, is offering five simple strategies that hotels can incorporate into their online marketing plan that will make it easier to obtain or maintain a high Google status. By using these strategies and publishing accurate and entertaining date-stamped material, hotels will increase their Google ranking and be at the top of a user’s search results.

"Just because a hotel updates or makes corrections to its webpage doesn't automatically increase its freshness value," said D.J. Vallauri, Lodging Interactive President and CEO. "Google determines the freshness the first time it crawled the page. The goal of Freshness Update is to deliver the most recent or current information to users when they enter a query. It does this by searching for web pages that are time stamped, which indicates when the information or webpage was created. Sometimes web pages can be time stamped in days or even in minutes. This is crucial for businesses in the hospitality industry that covet the top spots in Google’s search results because it underlines the importance of presenting and maintaining up-to-date information on their websites."

To take advantage of Google's Freshness Update, Lodging Interactive offers five strategies to incorporate into an online marketing plan:

1. Publish more press releases
2. Create a blog for your website
3. Become familiar with popular social media
4. Get picked up by Google News
5. Contact CoMMingle by Lodging Interactive for a free social media marketing audit

For details on each of the five strategies, click to read more:

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