INFORMATION HIGHWAY RUNS BOTH WAYS
Dec 22, 2012 (The Keene Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The advent of online booking and ratings systems has not only allowed people to make a reservation online or with their mobile devices, it's also made it possible for potential guests to make a decision where to stay based on others' experiences.
And hoteliers have taken notice.
Trip Advisor is one popular site that allows people to leave a review of their stay. Travelers can get extensive information there or on other sites before they book a room, including room tips ("Rooms away from the elevator or ice machine are quieter") overall value, location, sleep quality, service, cleanliness and whether it's pet-friendly.
Not only can guests leave reviews, they can post photos, both on travel sites and photo-sharing sites such as Pinterest; and even videos, which can be seen by hundreds of thousands of consumers who regularly stream videos online or on their mobile devices.
Hotels are given more exposure when guests create social media updates from their phones, virtually checking in on Facebook and tagging friends who are accompanying them.
Keene hotel operators take those reviews and ratings very seriously because it can be a make-or-break for them in terms of the amount of business they receive in a given year.
Jim Narkiewicz, general manager of The Days Inn, said social media directly influences online bookings at the Days Inn.
Out of the handful of Keene hotels listed on Trip Advisor, the Best Western Sovereign Hotel has the largest number of positive reviews.
K.T. Patel, the Best Western's operations director, not only pays attention to online reviews, every guest receives an email upon checkout to rate their experience on a scale of one to 10. If a guest has any issues, Patel addresses them by asking how to make the stay better next time.
Narkiewicz directs guests post-stay by sending email requests directing them to Trip Advisor to leave a review.
Alex Bates, area general manager for Colwen Hotel Management, which owns the Courtyard Keene Downtown, the Lane Hotel on Main Street and the Holiday Inn Express on Key Road, also sends out email surveys to guests after their hotel stay and answers reviews online, and goes a step further. In addition to weekly conference calls with other Colwen hotel managers to discuss online reviews and areas in which to improve, he subscribes to a program that compiles all online reviews into one file -- from Trip Advisor and other sites including Yelp, Orbitz, Expedia and Hotels.com.
Information is power
Hotel operators across the board in Keene said their customers are looking for faster and faster wireless network service. All of Keene's hotel websites tout complimentary wireless Internet service -- The Lane Hotel's site even lists the service provider.
Narkiewicz said the wireless service at Days Inn was recently upgraded, and Bates said the Courtyard's service will switch to even higher-speed fiber optic wireless service next year.
The Lane Hotel goes the extra mile to cater to corporate travelers, offering messenger service in addition to the standard copy, fax and printing services offered at most hotels now.
A "Go Board," or large touch screen in the lobby of all Marriott hotels, offers guests an interactive way to find out about local attractions, news and weather and look at Virtual Earth maps. Patel said the Best Western is planning to install a similar system in lobbies next year.
"Guests will be able to get information on where the attractions such as Mount Monadnock and covered bridges, restaurants and rental car services are in the area with the touch of a screen," he said.
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