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Why Are Hotels Sending Their Website Visitors to OTA's?

Are They Interpreting their Google Analytic Reports Correctly?

By Alan Roy Hollander, CEO, GuestBook LLC
April 26, 2011

When TripAdvisor began marketing its review widget to hotels, marketing experts were nearly unanimous in advising clients against adding this widget to their websites.  HeBS came out firmly against the widget and displaying TripAdvisor reviews on a hotel’s website, saying this would “[E]ncourage potential customers to book with the OTAs or someone else” and that the “industry in general should not contribute to the expansion of monopolistic customer review depositories like TripAdvisor” The TripAdvisor review widget on the hotel website: a good or bad move? July 10, 2009
So why have numerous hotels started displaying TripAdvisor and other guest reviews on their websites using TravelClick’s “Real Guest Reviews” or Revinate’s “Social Buzz” products which display on a hotel’s website excerpts of reviews from TripAdvisor or OTA website.   Due to hotel objections to displaying negative reviews directly on their website, these products only display highly positive reviews.  It would seem obvious that a traveler would suspect that the hotel has hand-picked only the favorable reviews and will therefore click through to TripAdvisor or OTA website to read the negative reviews.  This would lead to the common sense conclusion stated by HeBS that it is then more likely that a visitor will book through the OTA or book at another hotel.
The use of these products may be due to a flawed analysis of the data from Google Analytics.  Since website visitors who visit the pages with reviews are visitors who have been on the website for a significant period of time and have thereby evidenced a real interest in the hotel, the reports will show that a large percentage of these visitors will also go into the booking engine.  This percentage will be significantly higher than for the overall population of visitors to a hotel’s website.  Comparing these percentages leads to the incorrect conclusion that the adding the reviews page has increased the number of visitors who go into the booking engine. 
The reason the conclusion is incorrect is because the visitors who spend enough time on a hotel’s website that they find the link to the guest reviews page are going to be part of a different segment of users than the overall population of users who visit the hotel’s website.  This segment is comprised of those who exhibit real interest in the hotel because they visit certain pages, a certain number of pages, or spend a certain amount of time on the website.  It is likely that most of the visitors who visit the guest reviews page are in this segment.  Assuming that this is the case, the reviews page will only have a positive effect on bookings if the percentage of these visitors is higher than for the segment of visitors who have exhibited a real interest in the hotel.
Anyone contemplating including a page of excerpts of reviews from TripAdvisor or OTA websites must first determine what percentage of visitors who have evidenced a real interest also visit their booking engine.  They are taking a real risk of increasing their commissions on the OTA websites or even losing visitors to another hotel promoted on the OTA website.  TravelClick and Revinate should be called upon to demonstrate that this is not the case.

Alan Hollander, Founder & CEO
GuestBook LLC
Telephone:   +1 617 517 6028

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Also See:
A Recent Survey of 500 Vacation Travelers Shows 83% Rely on Online Hotel Reviews in Making Property Selections / April 2011

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