TripAdvisor shows new features for hoteliers

Online hotel review website TripAdvisor held a “master class” in Chicago on Tuesday, one of a series of seminars educating area hoteliers on how they can utilize the website.

The room in the Hotel Palomar the seminar was held in was packed with representatives of local hotels, although the number of attendees halved for the second portion of the seminar. In addition to extolling the benefits of the website for hotels and making an advertising sales pitch, TripAdvisor used the seminar to showcase its new Management Center, launched Tuesday, a feature which is replacing the previous interface Owner Center that dates from 2009 for hoteliers to manage their listing on the website.

The new interface’s primary advantage over the previous one is that it is more user-friendly. Interacting with and activating different features is more straight-forward as hotel general managers and sales directors were used as focus groups for the application. It also has numerous educational features on how hoteliers can best utilize TripAdvisor.

“People didn’t realize what they could do,” said Brian Payea, head of industry relations at TripAdvisor. “Many of same tools are there, but with an easier layout.”

In addition to noting that most reviews on TripAdvisor are positive — the average rating is 3.9 out of a possible 5 — Payea said that the Owner Center currently has more than 300,000 users. TripAdvisor would not reveal how much was spent on implementing Management Center.

Hotel representatives from many brands were in attendance, and the Preferred Hotels Group mentioned how its quality assurance system for members includes social media, so its hoteliers are required to use TripAdvisor while a local Hilton said the Owner Center was already being used.

“We use it already,” said Gary Tarpinian, director of sales and marketing at Hilton Northbrook, Illinois. “The operations people use it quite a bit, but I think sales will start using it more.”

One of the speakers at the event that stood out was Adele Gutman, vice president of sales, marketing and revenue at HKHotels, New York City. Gutman said HKHotels has taken a novel marketing strategy for its four New York properties by forgoing traditional sales and marketing techniques and focusing solely on its TripAdvisor reviews to great success. “We have so much demand generated by our reputation and the social media we don’t need to pay other companies to generate revenue for us,” Gutman said.

Gutman said HKHotels is not at all dependent on paid advertising, OTAs, wholesale contracts, sales trips, attending trade shows or flash sales because sufficient guests book directly on the HKHotels website through TripAdvisor, given their hotel’s prominent position on TripAdvisor’s New York City rankings list.

Instead of paying for marketing, Gutman said hoteliers would be better served by investing in giving guests the best service possible to generate positive TripAdvisor reviews. “Invest in guest experience — that’s what allows us to charge the rates we want,” Gutman said. “A good stay is not enough — wow them, wow them all!”