Following last summer’s launch of its new revenue management tool Rev+ and its subsequent fall launch of a new value-add tool, Expedia continues to ramp up its relationship with its lodging partners through a software-as-a-service business model. That model now includes the rollout of a new analysis tool, Guest Review Insights. “As we’re leveraging our global data platform to help hotels understand traffic, booking and pricing patterns for classic revenue-management purposes, we’re also building on the real-time review platform that we created a few years ago by helping hotels to maximize their guest reputation scores,” Benoit Jolin, VP of Expedia’s global product, told HOTEL MANAGEMENT.
The new program, housed on Expedia Partner Central, is a response to hoteliers’ concern about the extent to which online guest critiques can impact their business. Colliers International reported that “consumer reviews have become a major deciding factor for guests when booking hotels,” in its 2016 study “Hotel Reviews: How Guests Rate Their Experience in European Hotels” and 59 percent of those polled for a June 2017 Phocuswright study reported that online reviews influence their travel decisions.
But Expedia’s Guest Review Insights’ approach to examining reviews allows hoteliers to transform the data into operational and marketing intel, a practice that Kelly McGuire, VP of advanced analytics at Wyndham Destination Network and co-author of “Pricing in a Social World: How consumers use ratings, reviews and price when choosing a hotel,” advised hotels to implement last fall.
Accomplishing Multiple Objectives
Specifically, Guest Review Insights automatically sorts through a year’s worth of reviews by amenity and service offerings, which hotels can then filter for those amenities most frequently referenced in both positive and negative reviews. The software can also deliver trend graphs that can track changes in guest perceptions to specific amenities or services. But perhaps most critically, Guest Review Insights offers a comparative analysis to any given hotel’s chosen competitive set in order to determine which aspects of the individual hotel are keeping it ahead of the game or conversely, where the property needs to step up its game for a more aggressive stance in its market. While a hotel’s in-house social media could potentially evaluate online reviews directly for any number of competing hotels, the competitive analysis delivers Expedia’s big data directly to hoteliers immediately and objectively. “We leverage a lot of data across our global brand and we can interpret that data and make it available so that our hotel partners can make better informed decisions to outperform across our marketplace,” Jolin said. “The decision to act or not to act on the intel is in their hands, but we can tailor recommendations to individual properties.”
This new tool can aggregate the thousands of data points that funnel through Expedia’s guest-feedback platform to present hotels with a more cohesive view on what guests are and aren’t responding well to. Consistently positive input on the same service or amenity can translate into a change in marketing or communication tactics. Jolin pointed out that taken as a whole, there could be underlying indications of where a hotel has unique value propositions, if for example, a hotel has a pool that generates ongoing rave reviews while its competitors’ pools do not.
Mum keeps asking what hotel im staying at in maga n I'm gona hav to lie cos cant hav her googling it to find reviews titled 'hotel of death'— beth (@bethsmallx) March 20, 2017
The CapEx Effect
A constant flow of less favorable feedback on a single issue can also have positive implications because it could redress trepidations over the return on investment of a future renovation program. “Guest Review Insights is also an interesting vehicle to help hotels understand the return on their investment in [capital expenditures],” Jolin said. “We’ve heard hotel partners wonder what it’s worth to renovate and this is one way to quantify that investment.”
Guest Review Insights also is likely to be the first of several new tools that Expedia will launch on EPC this year. According to Jolin, insight is one of four pillars driving the company's strategy in 2017, the others being simplicity, engagement and partner visibility. “We want to work with our global lodging partner community to define what online distribution should be tomorrow and what the challenges are that they’re facing today so that we can play a role in alleviating those issues,” he said. “We truly believe in the spirit of partnership to shape and build the future of online travel.”