The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 3, 2013

Hotels check in to Web for a long-term stay

(Continued)

The rise of online reviews also has forced managers at large and small hotels to be ever-vigilant and in constant communication with their guests, said David Jones, the director of hospitality management at the University of San Francisco.

“Ten years ago, if you had a bad experience, you would tell nine people about it,” Jones said. “Today, though, you have a bad experience and you post a review, you’re telling hundreds of thousands of people about it.”

Because every hotel inevitably makes a mistake, the key to success in today’s hyper-social market is to reply to online criticism rapidly — and be courteous at the same time, Jones said.

Large hotels often have teams of people dedicated to preserving and bettering the property’s online presence. At the 503-room Hyatt Regency in downtown Sacramento, for instance, four people monitor the hotel’s website and ensure that managers are constantly engaged with their guests.

Scott VandenBerg, the hotel’s general manager, gets a notification sent to his phone whenever someone reviews the hotel on TripAdvisor.

Hotel staff members also hand out cards to guests who compliment the hotel’s service, and encourage them to report their kudos online, VandenBerg said.

“It’s almost replacing the comment cards that used to be in the guest room,” he said.

Guests use social media to review the hotel at a much higher rate than they used to, VandenBerg said. Several years ago, he would receive one or two comments online a month. Now it’s 10 to 20 per day.

These comments pop up on multiple sites, including Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com, Facebook and Twitter, VandenBerg said.

“Generally it amounts to quite a few systems that you have to watch,” he said.

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©2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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