Hoteliers finally get it – using social media and understanding the guest experience works

The guest experience is often mentioned over and over by CEOs and senior hotel executives as the key to success in today’s market.

The recent 35th annual edition of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference was no different, with David Kong, CEO of Best Western Hotels claiming:

“We see a direct correlation between experience and guest loyalty; between satisfaction and the likelihood our hotels are recommended to others.”

Because of this, common questions emerge: How are you listening to guests to improve? What are the “quick wins” you could make to create a powerful impression on your guests?

While there were the usual conversations about macro-economic trends and new types of business models in the hospitality industry, it was interesting to see “experience” as a focus for not only marketing executives, but also the investment community.

It all starts with listening

Listening is the first step in understanding how to develop and deliver the right type of experiences that will drive financial performance. Flo Lugli, executive vice president of marketing at Wyndham Hotel Group, says:

“If our hotels participate in no other type of social media activity, they must manage all reviews and ratings. After analyzing our data, we have seen a direct correlation between online reputation and profitability.”

This need is even more apparent in the luxury sector, with research from Four Seasons Hotels indicates that 40% of luxury travelers will not book a hotel room if there are no online customer reviews for that hotel property.

Charles Harris, Vice President of Marketing at Luxe Hotels, reinforces the need to actively listen to customers with technology: “Experiment and change as the ways [your customers] communicate change.”

The team at Luxe is focusing on participating in local social media networks to connect with clients in each region in the world, such as Weibo in China.

For Christopher Cowdray, CEO at the Dorchester Collection, listening to employees on property in each of their locations helps him keep a finger on the pulse of guest feedback. The group also uses a mix of traditional satisfaction surveys, mystery shopping, and social media and online reviews.

But regardless of the channel used to collect this feedback, the way staff share the guest comments internally is critical to make operational changes and improve the guest experience.

At Montage Hotels and Resorts, CEO Alan Fuerstman says the guests at his luxury properties use social media extensively to share opinion and plan their trips, so he and others in his organization listen closely to what guests are saying through those channels.

“They expect us to be listening closely to online feedback, and we are.”

Feedback can be a catalyst for breakthrough innovation. Paul Whetsell, CEO of Loews Hotels, notes that constantly engaging with people will help you create disruptive products.

“Always talk with guests to stay in tune with their needs. It takes attentiveness and lots of hard work. But it can hone your intuition to create disruptive products guests didn’t know they needed.”

And, interestingly, Whetsell also recommends watching other industries for inspiration.

“You can pick up trends and consumer behavior patterns from outside the industry that are applicable for hospitality.”

Another key benefit that social media and online reviews provide hotel owners is the ability to see raw, unfiltered guest feedback, says Homi Vazifdar, managing director at Canyon Equity.

It provides independent, unbiased insight into the performance and competency of management – as well as the ability to guide decisions on renovations and capital investment.

Putting feedback into action, creating better experiences

To make a difference, listening must be followed by action – and hoteliers today are focused on providing a new kind of luxury that isn’t what your grandfather might have expected.

Vazifdar, an owner and investor in ultra-luxury properties, notes:

“Luxury today is all about guest satisfaction. It’s about unrivaled experiences.”

Kirk Kinsell, President of IHG Americas, confirms from his perspective: “Luxury is about the experience, not the price.”

Leveraging new technology to support listening and assist in delivering these experiences – regardless of the hotels’ classification – is key.

“If you don’t take advantage of technology, your competitors will – and steal your market share,” says Kong of Best Western.

Marketing executives from Four Seasons, Wyndham, Hyatt, and Best Western shared their approaches for social media. While tactics varied, the strategy consensus was that the entire organization, not one person or one department, must be involved social media management.

It’s a 24/7 channel that needs to involve all departments. According to Fairmont Hotels president Jennifer Fox:

“If you don’t have a proactive approach to social media, others will define your brand for you.”

“Hotel companies must think of themselves as content, media, and publishing companies,” adds Elizabeth Pizzinato, senior vice president of marketing at Four Seasons.

The company rolled out a new brand website earlier this year as part of an $18 million investment in its online presence. Today in social media, they are focusing on “building their visual assets” and repurposing content on new platforms such as Instagram and Tumblr.

Business partnerships are also critical to deliver these great experiences – online and off. Michael Achenbaum, president of Gansevoort Hotel Group, talks about how he focuses on building his brand through partnerships with lifestyle companies such as Lacoste and Porsche.

Additionally, collaborating with hospitality “superstars” for dining and nightlife options on property can create a remarkable experience for guests. In his words:

“The difference is in the details. Who do you have to work with to offer something fun and unique?”

NB: Pool laptop image via Shutterstock.

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Josiah Mackenzie

About the Writer :: Josiah Mackenzie

Josiah Mackenzie is a contributor to tnooz and works as director of business development at ReviewPro to provide hotel executives with customer insights and business intelligence through online reviews and social media analytics.

ReviewPro reporting provides valuable insight for action in the areas of marketing and PR, quality & operations, sales, revenue & distribution.

By moving social media engagement from a marketing tactic to an operational tool, they are changing the way the hospitality industry can use and profit from the social web.



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  1. Hiren

    New technologies, like Tablets/Mobile based Guest Experience App, does wonders in enhancing guest experience. Such an app would empower Hotels’ guests to fully utilize hotel services in highly interactive and attractive way. They can view hotel information, amenities, pictures, videos, and other details within the app itself. They can place Service Requests for most commonly used services like reception call-back, housekeeping, travel desk, express checkout, etc. They can also see the in-room dining menu and place order directly from the app, adding a great value to their experience!

    Such app gives multiple benefits to the hoteliers, like Revolutionize Guest Experience, Improve Marketing, Branding, Advertising, Cross-Selling, Impulse Buying, Guest Loyalty and above all Increase RevPAR.

  2. Revenue Management y reputación online « Viap

    […] ocasiones anteriores he mencionado que los CEO de cadenas hoteleras de todo el mundo reconocen la vinculación existente entre la satisfacción del cliente y los resultados …. Además, los estudios realizados constatan el papel de las opiniones online en el proceso de […]

  3. Jay Cooney

    Great article Josiah!

    Jay Cooney
    Social Media Manager
    Omni Hotels & Resorts

  4. Robert Gilmour

    I’m not so sure – more evidence please

  5. How Reputation Management Has Become Revenue Management for Hotels - ReviewPro

    […] written before how CEOs of hotel brands around the world are recognizing the link between guest satisfaction and financial performance. We’ve also seen study after study reveal the role of online reviews in the consumer’s […]

  6. Andy

    Very good article,it’s still a new thing in Tanzania but it’s catching up little by little,hoteliers are now applying this as part of their marketing strategy.

  7. Answers to your questions from our latest webinar, “A Team Approach To Reputation Management” | ReviewPro

    […] Monica asked: “How are review and reputation analytics being used by revenue managers to maximize yield?” Josiah Mackenzie: Research by comScore and others has found a direct correlation between customer satisfaction, online reputation, and revenue growth. In fact, according to a study conducted by Four Seasons Hotels on the luxury traveler, 40% of consumers will not book a luxury hotel without the presence of online reviews. The link between online guest satisfaction and financial performance is something I heard over and over again at the NYU International Hotel Investment Conference. […]

  8. Paul

    Great article Josiah. Good to see/read senior management are proactive towards social media.



  9. Leonardo

    Most of the hotels are arriving late to adopt a strategy on social networks. Has always been clear that all companies working with tourism or not, have to listen their customers and, nowadays, social networks are the best way to do this. This article only quotes luxury hotels, but all types of hotels have to do it.

    • Josiah Mackenzie

      You’re right, Leonardo – and we are seeing this approach in all segments of the hotel industry. I want to tell more stories in the future about how limited service brands do this. Any suggestions are welcome!

  10. James Dickinson

    “If our hotels participate in no other type of social media activity, they must manage all reviews and ratings. After analyzing our data, we have seen a direct correlation between online reputation and profitability.”

    “If you don’t have a proactive approach to social media, others will define your brand for you.”

    Great advice -already spoken. It is important even for the smaller venues. Thanks for reminding us!

  11. Joe Bühler

    It’s long been my belief that the social engagement decision has to be made at the top and based on the right culture and I’m glad to see the CEO’s finally coming around on this topic after a few years lost trying to downplay social media and consider review sites the enemy.

    This should also be an indicator that they realize social web marketing is not a mere tactical endeavor for the intern with a Facebook account but part of an integrated, clear objectives based strategy.

    Another benefit of consumers being more interested in the experience is at least a reduced focus on only lowest price as the key determinator of hotel choice.

  12. Josiah Mackenzie

    Thanks, James – and very cool that you interviewed Anthony – I love his work. Do you have a link to the episode?

  13. James Bennett, CHA

    It’s about time that the “brands” are finally realizing what many of their hotels already know, you already have a Social Media presence it’s just a question of whether or not you manage it! I recently interviewed Anthony Melchiorri, of the Travel Channel show Hotel Impossible, on my hospitality podcast and he stated that if you (hotels) are not already on social media you have big problems! Also, Mark regarding your comment, those Social Media manager positions already exist and are thriving (luckily because that is what I do for a living)! Great job as usual Josiah keep it up!

  14. Mark W

    Agree…also “Multilingual Online Reputation Manager” and “Multilingual Online Reputation Company”

  15. Josiah Mackenzie

    Thanks, Mark. I think you’re right – and planning on creating a dedicated role for this something I’m already seeing in some progressive organizations. In most companies, though, it’s either part of someone’s job….or a “team sport” with multiple people/departments involved.

    I talked with Daniel Edward Craig – probably the world’s leading expert on hotel reputation – about this topic recently:

  16. Mark W

    Great article love reading your stuff…. I can see the position listed already in the years to come….”Online Reputation Manager XYZ Company”


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