HOTELS Interview: Perrin waxes on social consumers

Long-time Conde Nast Traveler columnist Wendy Perrin in April jumped over to TripAdvisor with her consumer-focused style of reporting as the travel site’s Travel Advocate.

Perrin is responsible for writing travel content for TripAdvisor’s blog, member updates, forums and social media channels. Perrin also serves as a TripAdvisor spokeswoman.

As the well-traveled mother of two, Perrin has experienced hotels around the world — often with her kids in tow — and has a wealth of views and ideas about the business. HOTELS caught up with Perrin recently to get her take on hotel trends of the day.

Click here to read the full interview with Wendy Perrin in the September issue of HOTELS Magazine.

HOTELS: What trends have caught your attention, and what are TripAdvisor members saying?

Wendy Perrin: One thing that is so incredibly important to TripAdvisor travelers is free Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi in a hotel is like running water. It is a basic of life. Everybody needs it. There are still a variety of delivery systems out there, but people feel nickeled-and-dimed when they have to pay in their room. It’s the biggest turnoff for TripAdvisor travelers.

H: What are hotels doing now that you like?

WP: They are bringing their staff alive in various ways — from advice about the locale on the website to books in rooms with insider tips about destinations from staff. That personal connection with the people at the hotel is a big turn-on. So many TripAdvisor travelers value that personal connection.

“Instagram is the next social frontier, and hoteliers should be harnessing its power more than they are.” – Wendy Perrin
“Instagram is the next social frontier, and hoteliers should be harnessing its power more than they are.” – Wendy Perrin

H: What do you see coming next?

WP: Instagram is the next social frontier, and hoteliers should be harnessing its power more than they are. There are conversations happening there, and if consumers are going to lovely hotels and taking photos, the hotels should make hay with that. Offer Instagram users special treatment, add more photogenic touches to be captured and shared. I’m waiting to see which smart hotel companies are going to be innovative with Instagram video. They have not quite tapped into that yet.

H: What pet peeves of yours and TripAdvisor members need addressing?

WP: Costly minibar fees. Our research shows only 7% care about having a minibar in their rooms. More people are hanging out in the lobby, and as room service disappears hoteliers are discovering different ways to offer snacks and drinks to keep the social scene hopping in the lobby.

Everyone I know also complains about the lack of electrical outlets in the guestroom. I know headway has been made, but it would be nice to have more convenient spots, especially at desk level and by the bed nightstand.

H: What should hotels do to create more loyalty?

WP: What I hear about and notice is service — the real way a hotel can differentiate itself. Hardware matters, as does thread count, but in the end what people remember is when the hotel went above and beyond and solved their problems. Either they solve it and perhaps create a loyalist, or they don’t and truly frustrate guests. Service is the most important thing for a hotel to focus on, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.