Thursday 29 June 2017

Online customer reviews driving changes in hotels sector

The online review marketplace has continued to grow worldwide in recent years, with TripAdvisor, Google, and Open Table surging in popularity. Stock image
The online review marketplace has continued to grow worldwide in recent years, with TripAdvisor, Google, and Open Table surging in popularity. Stock image
Michael Cogley

Michael Cogley

Online customer reviews are driving change in the hotel and leisure industry, forcing businesses to improve their service offering to consumers, new research reveals.

According to the Barclays Feedback Economy report, almost four-fifths of Irish companies in the area said online customer reviews was a major driver for increases in turnover.

Barclays Bank Ireland head of client coverage Helen Kelly said it was "encouraging" that businesses are benefiting from customers' opinions.

"The use of feedback by customers is not only a growing trend, but a potentially incredibly valuable source of information for the business community.

"With 92pc of businesses across Ireland anticipating that not only will feedback become more important in its own right, but that it will also become more important to manage that feedback, businesses would do well to consider their options and capability now," the Barclays head said.

The feedback is being used as an effective way to reduce the problems that lie within a business.

The research points out that 70pc of Irish companies in the hotel and leisure business used feedback to eliminate problems in their product, with a further 86pc saying it bumps their reputation.

However, despite the benefits of reviews the vast majority in the industry believe that review sites are limited to the "supremely pleased or displeased" consumers.

The online review marketplace has continued to grow worldwide in recent years, with TripAdvisor, Google, and Open Table surging in popularity.

Recent figures show that over 200 new contributions are made to TripAdvisor every month with restaurant-review website OpenTable receiving 450,000 new submissions every month.

Meanwhile review website Yelp is boasting 104 million posts.

"The rise of feedback has been a disruptive force within the hospitality industry over the past decade," Ms Kelly said.

"Businesses that do not adequately respond to this trend are in danger of missing a vital opportunity to both grow their business and stay ahead of the competition," she added.

The research was conducted prior to June 23, when Britain decided it would leave the European Union.

In the pre-Brexit research almost three-quarters of hospitality and leisure businesses in Ireland were tipping increases in their revenue over the next year and a half.

That tune seems to have changed after the Irish Hotels Foundation (IHF) published its own research pointing to fear in the industry about the effects Brexit may have on its revenue.

Britain remains Ireland's number one source of incoming tourists, accounting for over 40pc of the country's overseas guests.

Research from the IHF showed that the vast majority of Irish hoteliers (95pc) expressed concern in regards to the implications of Brexit.

Like most sectors, the Federation agrees it is too soon to put a value on the effect the Britain's decision could have.

"While it is too early to predict the full effect that the decision will have on Irish tourism, there can be no room for complacency, particularly given the potential impact on visitor numbers from the UK and business levels within the domestic market," IHF president Joe Dolan said earlier in the month.

Irish Independent

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