Guest reviews really matter. Just think about how they impact your own travel decisions. Numerous studies show that a vast majority of travellers research reviews before deciding to book. Positive reviews build trust and credibility. Negative review create uncertainty and ‘risk aversion’ which deter bookings. Add to that, the impact on search engines which prioritise businesses with higher volumes of positive reviews. This directly boosts your visibility online.

In my next couple of articles, I’m going to focus on how to acquire and manage reviews, how to use them to best effect on your own website and why some reviews are more important than others.

Firstly, how do you go about cultivating positive reviews?

Before the guest even arrives for a stay or activity, engage with them to prepare them for their experience. This sets the tone of friendliness and that you value them and care about the ‘little’ things.

While you have the guests with you, encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you, while they are immersed in the experience. For accommodation, this could be through comment cards in rooms, or QR codes linking to review pages, or if they are on your tour, by simply by asking them directly.

Then after your guest checks out or they finish their activity, send a follow-up email and or text thanking them for staying or participating in the tour or activity and kindly request feedback. Here, timing is crucial because it indicates your level of engagement with them. Try to send an email or text within 24 to at most 48 hours while their experience is fresh in their minds.

It is often suggested to provide incentives such as discounts on future bookings or free/value add amenities in exchange for leaving a review. I personally feel this is too transactional and sends the wrong message plus you need to be sure to comply with the guidelines of each platform to avoid penalties for manipulating reviews.

What you should do is actively engage with guests on your, and their chosen, social media platforms, particularly Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Encourage them to share their experiences using specific hashtags and to tag your business. This ‘User-generated content’ (UGC) is the most powerful and trusted type of content you can get. It helps to build trust and authenticity because;

  1. It is, and feels, genuine because it’s the the fans of your business creating it.
  2. There is a real a person sharing their genuine thoughts about their experience with your business. Therefore, it isn’t seen as ‘salesy’.
  3. UGC is one of the most shared types of content on social media, so it increases your awareness and credibility, and can’t be acquired or copied by your competitors.

Now, how do you manage your reviews?

⁠Start by keeping a close eye on reviews across all the OTAs and social media channels. You can monitor reviews by simply setting up alerts, or by using tools that consolidate reviews from multiple sources.  For example, on Instagram, go to your profile page and below your highlight buttons, tap the “photo frame” icon on the right. This is where posts you have been tagged in sit. If a guest or a fan has done a post about your business and tagged you, it will be sitting here. If there is something, post it to your grid. This page is basically a gallery of user-generated content (UGC) about your brand.

Just make sure you acknowledge and reply promptly to both positive and negative reviews. Whether the review is positive or negative, personalise your response and thank them for the feedback. For negative reviews, address the concerns raised and offer solutions, or if necessary, a genuine apology. This exhibits pride in your business and a commitment to your customer’s satisfaction.

Don’t do a ‘Larry David”! Sometimes it’s hard, but regardless of the tone or content of a review, keep the ‘high ground’ in your responses. Avoid getting defensive or engaging in arguments publicly. Remember, your responses are visible to all future prospective clients and will influence their view of you and your business.

Take on board the feedback provided in reviews to identify areas for improvement. If multiple guests mention the same issue, it’s a clear indicator that action is needed to prevent similar issues in the future.

Get the most from positive reviews by showcasing them on your website and social media channels. While the OTAs are a key touchpoint, your own website is your most valuable asset for gathering, displaying and managing reviews.

There are review widgets you can put on your website to display reviews from various platforms to provide visitors with an overview of your business’s reputation.

Dedicate a page on your website specifically for guest reviews. Organize the reviews by category, for example location, experience, service etc and by date to make it easier for visitors to navigate. Make sure you keep it current. As you know, if the last review you put up was four years ago, prospective guests would no doubt wonder about its currency.

It’s also important to think about SEO (search engine optimisation) because that helps generate organic traffic to your site. Work to include relevant keywords and phrases throughout the pages that contain your reviews as it will improve your visibility in search engine results.

Remember, social ‘proof’ will motivate and reassure potential bookers and increase booking conversions.

Keep an eye out for my next blog which will de-mystify Google reviews and explain their impact on your bookings.