How to get more bookings for your accommodation business (Part 1)
Part 1: Reviews – let your customers do the talking
This is part 1 of a 4 part series on how to increase bookings for your B&B, hotel or other accommodation business.
The local tourism industry has had its challenges over the past few years with the strong dollar making holidays in Australia more expensive for tourists, and cheap overseas flights enticing Australians to head overseas instead of spending their money on domestic holidays.
Summer is usually a busy time for accommodation providers, but as we head into winter it’s a good time to review your marketing to ensure strong bookings through the low season.
People trust customer reviews
In the first part of our series of blog posts we look at getting your customers to help you spread the word. When people make a buying decision such as booking holiday accommodation, they usually trust other customers’ opinions much more than any advertising from the accommodation provider.
It is therefore crucial that you ask your (happy) customers to review your business online for all to see, rather than keeping these reviews locked away in your guest book. Perusing your guest book may be an entertaining pursuit for your guests, but it does nothing to pull in new bookings.
This post assumes that your customers are generally happy with your facilities and service. If they aren’t, asking them for reviews could seriously backfire. In that case your priorities should be on improving customer satisfaction rather than asking for reviews!
It’s a good idea to focus on a couple of different review websites so that you are not too dependent on one player. Things change and can sometimes seriously impact your business – a couple of recent examples are:
- Last year’s takeover of Takeabreak by Stayz; depending on your market, some accommodation providers may now be better off listing on Stayz, however if you have a lot of reviews on Takeabreak you can’t take them with you
- Google’s change of policy regarding Tripadvisor reviews: Google Maps used to pull Tripadvisor reviews into its listings, however that has changed last year, so while your Google Maps listing may have looked great with all those reviews, they may suddenly not be visible anymore
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Because things can change, and also because people use different websites to do their research, don’t ask all your customers to review your accommodation on the same website. Mix it up a little. Consider the following websites:
Originating in the US, Tripadvisor is quickly gaining traction in the Australian market as the number 1 independent review site. It’s a must for all accommodation providers. Visit www.tripadvisor.com and check if your accommodation is already listed. If it is, direct your customer to your Tripadvisor listing to post their reviews. If your accommodation is not listed yet, you can sign up here for free.
Tripadvisor reviews can also be integrated into your website, which can be quite powerful and convincing as people can read independent reviews without even leaving your website.
Accommodation booking websites
If you find that you are getting a lot of booking from a website such as Stayz, ask some of your customers to post reviews on that website to strengthen your listing.
If you don’t have a Google Places listing yet, claim it here for free. Fill in as much information as possible, add some photos and then send the link to your customers to review your business. This is all the more important now since Google has stopped integrating Tripadvisor reviews into their listings. People do use Google Maps to find accommodation, and it certainly helps if your listing has reviews. [Update: in the last week or so Google seems to have relaunched Google Places and now only allows reviews by people with Google + accounts].
Post guest book comments on your website
Remember those reviews collecting dust in your guest book? Put them to work for you by picking out some good reviews and posting them on your website. This is not as powerful as reviews on an independent website as it is quite obvious that you have probably hand picked the good reviews, but it may still add to a positive impression of your business.
Coming up: in Part 2 of this series we will look at using booking websites to increase your sales.