The global pandemic dramatically changed the future of domestic and international travel.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, travel spending in 2020 saw a 42% annual decline from 2019. International travel spending fell 76% while business travel spending fell 70%.
Borders and airports were closed. Flights, cruise, and hotel cancellations upended vacation plans and business travel for hundreds of millions of travelers.
The travel industry has always been a fiercely competitive business, subject to the whims of political, social and economic conditions — now even global health is a risk.
People will soon resume travel, but how often, to where, and when remain unanswered questions for a trillion dollar industry.
Travel and tourism companies that survive the coronavirus crisis will seek every opportunity to win the customer back.
Price and customer service, as they have always been, will remain the key dynamic motivating travel reservations and advance bookings, but 93% of travel and hospitality business owners consider online reviews and online reputation to be among the most important factors affecting the future of their industry.
91% of travelers look online first when searching for a place to stay, with the majority – more than four in five (81%) travelers choosing to search on Google.
What do people see when they Google your travel or tour company?
Bad reviews, misleading news, influencer views, negative forum comments can destroy your online reputation.
This is why the future of online marketing for travel companies must include online reputation management.
How important is your online reputation as a tour company? How about as a hotel or air booking company? Most people get one vacation a year, and they want it to be as close to perfect as possible. Others who are booking travel for business can’t afford mishaps and disappointments.
That’s a lot of pressure. That also equates to a lot of consumer research. They’re going to be checking your customer satisfaction ratings and online reviews. In fact, 82% of consumers rely solely on online reviews, and they read about ten of them.
Crowdsourced reviews will have as much or even more impact as a recommendation from a trusted friend.
Reputation Rhino has worked with many of the leading travel, tourism, OTA and booking companies in the world – helping our clients build a powerful Page 1 brand and minimize the visibility and impact of negative search results.
Online Reviews for Travel and Tourism
If your tour company is specific to one geographical area, it may be true that your competition is narrower. However, remember that you’re also competing with the online reviews of every other tour company online.
If you operate a hotel or air booking company, you should already know how important online reviews are for your business. 82% of the 148 million online bookings were conducted on websites or mobile apps without any human intervention — digital booking increases every year (annual growth of 15.4% is expected going forward).
The influence of reviews doesn’t stop there. It has been estimated that online reviews contribute to 15% of search rankings. Meaning that while Google is determining where your business will appear in the list of its search results, the tone of your reviews matters.
Business Reviews Management ensures that your tour company, air travel booking service or hotel booking service’s online reputation can beat your closest competitors.
Managing TripAdvisor Reviews
For all things travel, TripAdvisor is the place to be. Its mission statement is, “To help people around the world plan and have the perfect trip.” That includes hotels, attractions, eateries…and yes, tour operations.
With 463 million unique visitors and 860 million reviews, TripAdvisor operates in 48 countries and in 28 different languages. While on TripAdvisor, 96% of those visitors will read reviews and 81% say that those reviews will affect their decisions to book.
This means it’s important for your tour or guide company to be on TripAdvisor. It also means your company will be part of a review site that occupies the first page on Google.
TripAdvisor will not remove a review simply because it hurts your reputation. Negative reviews must be expertly managed in a way that converts dissatisfied customers and makes your travel or tourism business attractive to others.
Removing TripAdvisor Reviews
TripAdvisor’s review guidelines are in place to protect businesses from fraudulent reviews. Some examples might be fake reviews from your competitors, reviews that contain libelous or defamatory information or those posted with intent to blackmail.
Authentic reviews containing the opinions of past customers will not be removed.
To report a review that you know to be fraudulent…
- Log into “Management Center.”
- Click on “Reviews” under “Menu.”
- Click on “Report a Review.”
- Click on “See Our Guidelines and Submit Your Comments” under “Concerned About a Review?”
- Supply your reason for dispute.
- Select the review in question.
- Provide evidence to support your argument.
If any review on TripAdvisor infringes upon a copyright, you can email ta-copyright@Tripadvisor.com and put them on notice (in accordance with DMCA, or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act).
Reviews on TripAdvisor cannot be edited, but the person who posted the review can remove it. In order to do that, they can…
- Find their TripAdvisor profile.
- Click on the menu in the top right corner of the review box.
- Click on “Delete” and confirm.
Negative Reviews on TripAdvisor
Because negative reviews are virtually unavoidable, it can be unrealistic to hope for only positive ones. A better strategy would be prompt intervention when negative reviews appear.
When a negative review is detected on TripAdvisor (by you, your reputation management tools or your reputation management firm), respond privately to the dissatisfied customer within 24 hours.
Your tour or guide company’s representative should show interest in resolving the problem and provide contact information.
If a resolution is agreed upon, ask the customer to delete the TripAdvisor review. You may also request that they post a more positive one.
If the reviewer does not respond or they’re unable to be reached, reply to the negative review publicly, thanking them for their feedback. Offer your help in solving the problem.
How to Spot Fake Reviews on TripAdvisor
Fake reviews come in a number of forms. Sometimes, PR departments will post positive reviews for their own companies and negative reviews of their competitors.
More detailed reviews are more likely to be legitimate. Look for names of tour guides, exact locations of tours, etc. Often, when people are incentivized to post fake reviews, they will create as many as possible for the biggest paycheck. This often means few (or fake) details.
Authentic reviews on sites like TripAdvisor often come in packages. For instance, one reviewer will likely express their opinion about the tour, restaurants and the hotel. If you can find evidence of this, the review is likely legitimate.
Finally, when photos accompany reviews, it adds to their authenticity. These photos are usually average in quality. If they’re stock photography, you might be looking at a fake review.
If you find what you believe to be a fake review, visit the TripAdvisor Management Center and follow the steps in the above section, “Removing TripAdvisor Reviews.”
Online Reputation Management for Your Travel Company
Online reputation is the overall perception that search results, your website, social media pages, videos, photos and reviews create about your travel business. In today’s digital world, your online reputation is your reputation.
72% of consumers will conduct research before booking, meaning that your reputation is competing with other travel and tourism companies.
Your online reputation will speak for your business when you can’t. It will sell bookings while you sleep. And it will compound positive reviews to create more word-of-mouth advertising, referrals… and yes, an even better online reputation.
But it doesn’t happen without active reputation management. 22% of people will post reviews of a travel and tourism company on their own. However, if you request feedback from customers, that percentage rises to 80%. Negative reviews can be mitigated and converted, but only if they’re managed properly.
As you know, nightmare stories and poor reviews are abundant in the travel industry. But it’s not all about vengeance. 70% of people who leave poor reviews just want their voices to be heard. They want resolution and to know that their opinion matters.
How to Handle Negative Reviews for Travel and Tourism
A large part of online reputation management is review management—and negative reviews are at the heart of it all.
First, when you receive a negative review, remember that the majority of dissatisfied customers just want to be heard. They want their pain to be acknowledged. And they want you to prove that you want their business in the future.
When a negative review is discovered, thank the reviewer for their feedback. Then get straight to solving the problem. Take the conversation offline, and when you do come to a consensus, ask them to edit their review. In many ways, this converted negative review will do more for your online reputation than an original positive review will.
But how to find those negative reviews before they affect your reputation? You have two choices.
You can monitor your reviews and mentions on your own, using online reputation management tools—as well as post timely content and manage your social media pages.
Or, you can hire a reputation management company like Reputation Rhino to monitor online reviews, manage and resolve customer complaints, increase your number of positive reviews, publish reputation-building content, optimize that content and engage your audience online.
Social Media Management for Travel and Tourism
When your travel or tourism company has an established and active presence on social media, your search engine rankings will benefit. That means your business is more likely to have more (and better) results on the first page of Google.
To give you an idea just how important that first page of search results is, consider that more than 25% of all internet users will click on the first organic result they see (that’s excluding ads). 15% will click on position number two, 11% on position number three… and only 2.5% will ever make it to position number ten.
And let’s not forget that every social media channel has its own search engine. When someone who’s looking to book air travel, a hotel or a tour searches on Facebook, for instance, they’re going to see the most prominent, best-matching business profiles first.
While there, they’ll also see ratings from people who have used your service. Again, all positive interactions will benefit your chances of being found (and making a good impression).
Facebook users spend an average of 19.5 hours on the app every month. That’s 19.5 hours of opportunity to put your business in front of people planning a vacation.
Citizens of the United States are notorious for leaving vacation time unused. In fact, only 28% of them use all the vacation days they earn from their employers. And yet, 100 million will take at least one vacation a year (and 28% of them will get away three or more times per year).
U.S. citizens (as well as those in Japan and Thailand) who travel are spending almost six times as much time on Facebook as they are on vacation. That means your time on Facebook, as a travel and tourism company, will be well-spent working to capture their attention.
How do consumers choose tour companies, vacation spots, hotels and all the other details associated with holidays and vacations? They read reviews and they look at photos.
Influencer marketing on Instagram has been one of the strongest social media trends in the travel and tourism industry – but effective influencer marketing requires a much more thoughtful strategy than just showing pretty women in bikinis and hunky men on surf boards.
When consumers decide to book a vacation, they want a change of scenery. So you’ve got to let them know what they can expect that scenery to look like—with striking, high-definition photography and tactics to drive user engagement from Instagram to your website or booking portal.
Among Instagram users hoping to book travel accommodations and activities, 48% said they used the app to choose their next destination, while 35% used it to discover new destinations they’d never heard of.
A picture can speak a thousand words, and Twitter is one of the best places for that to happen (since each Tweet can contain no more than 280 characters).
Just think of the referral possibilities on Twitter. Retweets, hashtags, mentions, follows and more! 290.5 million people were using Twitter in 2019, and that number is expected to exceed 340 million by 2024.
What could a video of a tour of Venice or Greece or Sicily do for your tour company? How much good could you do if consumers could get a taste of what they’ll experience while on one of your guided excursions?
How about luxury hotel bookings? Or safe, convenient air travel?
There’s no doubt within the marketing community that video works. In fact, 94% of professional marketers who used video in 2020 plan to continue, and 74% of them said they got better results from video than from still imagery.
Count in the fact that Google favors YouTube videos in search results, and you’ve got a million reasons to establish a presence on YouTube for your tour company or hotel/air travel booking company.
Online Reputation Management for Travel and Tourism
By 2023, 700 million people will book their travel arrangements online, and 70% of them will use their mobile devices to conduct research into booking and tour companies.
How will your travel booking service or tour company compete in that market? Will your business’s image be able to compete? Will your reputation be something you’re proud of? Will it build your brand and passively sell bookings?