Truth or consequences

Truth or consequences

In my last blog, I expressed my opinion on the obligation of hotels to maintain product and service standards even during a recession. What prompted my addressing this issue was the frequency of calls I receive from people seeking my advice on where to stay when they travel. Many comment on their lack of confidence in a hotel’s website. They want reassurance that the website’s pictures resemble the actual product and that the services listed are truly available. Often they are distrustful of consumer travel websites, as they recognize that a hotel or its competitors could be writing the reviews. So where can they go for reliable information? I can use a recent experience of mine to echo traveler frustration.

In late spring, I sneak away for a few days to Florida for an annual golf outing with friends. We have stayed at the same hotel for a few years, and despite the facilities being outdated, the experience has always been extremely positive. During our visit last year, the hotel had just announced that it was embarking on a phased renovation of the entire resort, to be completed by the time we returned this year. As I’ve assumed the role of our group’s “travel advisor,” I wanted to ensure that we would not be walking into a hotel under construction. I frequently checked the hotel’s website as well consumer travel websites to review the progress of the renovation and see what the Internet chatter was on the redo. My first glimmer that something was amiss was a subtlety I noticed on the hotel’s website: the word “renovation” had suddenly been changed to “rejuvenation.” The average consumer might not grasp the nuance of this wording, but my antennas went up immediately. In “hotel speak,” this meant budget cuts to the supposed new product — and what else? More puzzling was the lack of chatter on consumer websites commenting on the “new hotel” — did this mean there was nothing new to talk about? Was this “rejuvenation” really happening? I contacted the hotel and was advised that the website was accurate, and in fact, we would be among the first guests to experience the “rejuvenated” hotel. Antennas are up again, but too late to change our plans at this point.

I’m sure you can guess the outcome of the story. A change of bedspreads, drapes and new carpet along with higher room rates awaited us, and with notable staff and service reductions, the “rejuvenation” certainly didn’t breathe new life into the hotel nor my golf game. I contacted the hotel when I returned home, as I was offended by the misleading information on the website. I wasn’t seeking nor did I receive a refund — what I did get wass a lot of “we will look into it.” This was over six months ago. When I checked the hotel’s website the other day, the information had not changed. I suspect it won’t. What has changed is the heavy volume of online consumer chatter from recent guests, mostly negative.  

Have you checked your website lately? Are the photographic images a truthful portrayal of your product? Is the listing of available amenities and services current? Let me know what you find.