Although your boutique hotel attracts upscale clientele, you probably don’t have the giant marketing budget that large, chain hotels enjoy.
Every marketing dollar counts for independent hotels, and that’s especially true for hotels that offer unique, luxurious experiences for their guests. A marketing budget can only stretch so far, so where do you put your focus? How do you get noticed in a giant sea of hospitality options?
I’m a firm believer that reputation equals revenue, so I think it makes sense to dedicate some of your time and budget to monitoring, maintaining, and improving your online reputation.
For any type of hotel, online reviews are a huge part of online reputation.
But online reviews are different for boutique hotels than they are for large hotel chains.
A Different Ballgame
Take a look at these Yelp search results, and then do the same search for any hotel chain.
What do you notice?
Overall, boutique hotels attract more positive reviews than larger hotel chains. Most boutique hotels seem to be sitting at an average of four stars, which is not something many other business types experience.
In that way, you’re already at an advantage.
But you’re up against a few disadvantages, as well.
Many would-be guests may be hesitant to choose something other than the comfort and familiarity of the hotel chains they’re used to. You don’t run a cookie cutter property, so that’s something you’ll always be up against.
Fortunately, reviews can help you in that area, too.
In some cases, reviews from guests will even do your marketing for you.
Online reviews help make prospective guests feel they’re making a good choice by trying something different. Reviews display your guest’s perceptions on:
Comfort (beds, chairs, towels, etc.)
Location, dining, and shopping opportunities
Quality of amenities
The details that make your property stand out
Reviews can help inspire confidence in the standard stuff, but for a boutique hotel, reviews can also point out the intangibles that set you apart from other hotels. Guests may rave about how your decor makes them feel, about enjoying a unique experience, or any of the little qualities that make your property special.
Reviews, and your overall reputation, are one of the best marketing avenues available to you.
Some Relevant Numbers
Still need a bit more convincing?
Back in 2014, TripAdvisor commissioned independent researcher PhoCusWright to conduct a study on how consumers interact with hotel reviews.
You can find the full study here.
These are the main takeaways:
80% of guests check 6 to 12 reviews before booking a hotel
20% of guests read more than 11 reviews before making their decision
77% of guests usually or always reference TripAdvisor before booking a hotel
87% agree that an appropriate response to a negative review, from an owner or manager, improves their perception of the hotel
70% agree that an aggressive or defensive response to a negative review makes them less likely to book a hotel
82% agree that seeing management respond regularly to reviews makes them more likely to book the hotel
53% of travelers will not book a hotel if it has no reviews
73% say guest-submitted photos help them make their hotel choice
64% of guests ignore extreme or angry comments when reading reviews
In addition, participants in the study said they either leave positive reviews because they feel good about sharing information with other travelers, or because they wanted to share their great experience with other travelers.
That’s excellent news for you, as you’re selling and marketing an experience just as much as you’re selling a place to stay.
If You’re Not Responding, You’re Not Keeping Up
Did you notice how many of the statistics in the last section had to do with responding to reviews?
As a refresher, 87% of potential guests agree that an appropriate response from management to a negative review improves their perception of a given hotel. 70% say reading aggressive or defensive responses from management makes them less likely to book, and 82% say seeing regular responses from management makes them more likely to book.
My research indicates boutique hotels respond to their reviews much more regularly than standard hotels, which is another thing that sets your industry apart.
If you’re not responding to every review you get, you’re not keeping up with your reputation.
You’ll encounter more positive reviews than a standard hotel will, but you still need to respond to those reviews.
Your responses should be personalized, detailed, and authentic. This hotel’s review responses provide some excellent examples.
Basically, responding to reviews is another part of your service. You build more personal connections and relationships with your guests than standard hotels do, and providing an excellent guest experience extends past their stay with you.
Potential guests will see the care you put into your responses, and the majority of them take those responses into consideration when they’re researching your property.
I suggest setting aside five to ten minutes every morning to monitor and respond to reviews– that way your guests are fresh in your mind, and you won’t fall behind on your responses. Responding to positive reviews should come easy, but if you need a refresher on responding to negative reviews, we wrote about that earlier this year.
Fresh Reviews Count
Aside from responding to reviews, your other main focus should probably be earning fresh reviews.
When it comes to asking for reviews, you may have more luck than standard properties because of that personal connection you make with your guests. Still, you have to ask.
This article reports that fresh reviews,, along with overall rating, make a big impact on sites like TripAdvisor.
“To move up on the Popularity Index, improving customer experience is far more important than getting a greater volume of reviews. But, don’t forget: As a function of averages, it is more difficult to improve your ranking on the Popularity Index as you climb the scale. So, if you’re already trending toward the top of your market, it may be necessary to get a greater quantity of recent reviews in order to dominate your competition.”
Fresh reviews also allow you to pay attention to what your guests are saying. They can help you make improvements, and also address guest feedback on your blog and social media channels.
When your guests see that you take their feedback to heart, they’re much more likely to become repeat customers.
Your service is likely better than what larger, chain hotels are able to offer. Fresh reviews will reflect your commitment to service, and they’ll indicate what you’re doing right and how you can improve.
You can also use fresh reviews to ask for referrals. If your guests feel they’ve had an incredible experience at your property, they’re more likely to refer a friend or family member to your hotel. If you throw in a referral bonus, as well– you can do the math.
Discuss online reviews and how you’re asking for them during your weekly sales meetings, as well. You should have a review strategy in place, and you should have a solid system for asking guests to leave a review.
There are a thousand ways you can spend your marketing budget, but investing in your online reputation is an easy win. Compared to other industries, you’re already a step ahead when it comes to making personal connections with your guests, and a step ahead when it comes to receiving positive reviews.
As long as you’re constantly asking your guests to leave fresh reviews, and responding to every review you receive, allocating part of your marketing budget toward your online reputation will be the easiest spending decision you make every month.
Thanks for reading!