Firas Rashid, director of sales and marketing, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, looks at online travel forums versus traditional industry awards and asks which has the bigger influence?
The impact of the internet phenomena and its effect in the hotel industry in recent years has created more competition than ever. Hoteliers will always face a battle to win customers and their loyalty, but the online platform gives us a new arena in which to fight. With the rise in online travel forums, it also allows new players to enter the game.
Due to various online platforms which provide consumers with forums in which they are able to become critics, the importance of customer satisfaction has risen. While always a cornerstone in a hotel’s success, guest feedback is more crucial than ever in the history of the hotel industry.
Sharing their experiences online, whether expectations are exceeded or not, has become a powerful tool. Customers know the fierce competition between hotels in todays market, and leaving an online review is another way to be acknowledged and to show the hotel why they have been chosen amongst many other options.
Before online reviews, one of the key reputation benchmarks for a hotel came from the size of its awards cabinet. The most coveted, and the most prestigious awards, are selected by a panel of judges made up of industry experts.
Hotels have to qualify for certain a criteria, and work hard to stand ahead of their competition. Considered to hold major value for a hotel, it is a way to monitor performance and, most importantly, to stand out from its competitors.
The awards process tends to be long, focusing on specific criteria; from exceptional staff members to stand out hotel facilities. Once the nominations are in, a panel of judges with decades of experience in the hostitality industry are left to deliberate and decide the cream of that particular year’s crop. In contrast, a hotel guest leaving an overall hotel review on an online forum can take less than five minutes from critique to click.
The main question we face as hoteliers – is now how much do our guests and clients care about these prestigious awards and what effect do they have on their decision making? Does a cabinet full of awards drive revenue or do our guests pay more attention to online reviews?
This change in consumer behavior has rapidly shifted the focus of hoteliers towards established review sites such as TripAdvisor, social media platforms, and search engine results. Today, the importance of maintaining your hotel’s online reputation more important than ever. Because it is constantly evolving, it is also a much harder task.
There is a sense that winning an award is easier, because it relies on impressing a specific panel of judges and will ultimately come down to the merit of the hotel. Regardless of background, travel requirements and access to the digital world, they are all looking for just one thing – a unique experience.
As much as nabbing a prestigious award is heart-warming for a hotel and it’s team members, winning over our guests is top of the list. With the rise in online travel platforms, we as hoteliers do not need to wait for a annual judgement from the awards industry, we can gain recognition every day. When its positive, it is as good as any award, and when it is negative, we can use constructive criticism to improve.
Awards from our peers, particularly when they allude to an outstanding team performance, are of great value when it comes to industry recogition. They help to keep the team motivated to uncover potential and encourages a healthy level of competition.
The question is, with the rise in consumer driven online review content, and its undeniable influence in informing the decisions of countless travellers, what is the future of the traditional industry awards?