Friday, 1 August 2008

A thoughtful rant...

Having recently employed a new chef and staff for the long withheld evening opening of our restaurant, we will shortly start to promote ourselves locally. But as for the hotel, I don't think we pay for any advertising at Baan Bophut, not because we're skinflints, we spend our advertising budget on beer instead. We simply don't know where to direct our message. Let's face it, Samui's no longer a backpacker destination and the droves of travelers and gap year students who at one time would avidly devour the local brochures and listing leaflets for a cheap beach bungalow are not that evident anymore. Neither are the cheap beach bungalows.

Our target market is the new and growing breed of independent traveler. They book their own airtickets and they choose their own accommodation on their computer at home or like me, the office. Universally, they shun tour operators and packaged holidays, much like ourselves. Good for them! Airtickets they find through the numerous online bucket shops and their hotel, increasingly through TripAdvisor, who now have over 100,000,000, (you read it right, a hundred million visitors) a month checking out their choices of hotel accommodation. Thankfully, they don't all review their eventual selection.

Guest reviews can make or break a hotel. As hoteliers, we know we have a responsibility to make a guest's stay as enjoyable as we can and exceed their expectations whenever possible. Baan Bophut is a small hotel, so we've a better chance than most, but big or small, guest reviews are, to stretch a couple of metaphors, a double edged Sword of ...what's his name? The Greek guy - Damocles (thanks Google).

Guest's hotel reviews, of which TripAdvisor is the biggest repository are the best thing that could have happened to prospective hotel guests, who can now develop a better understanding of what the hotel of their choice is actually going to be like and build an expectation. If a hotel matches it or beats it, great, they get a good review. But if they fail to perform or, worryingly, fail meet the same standard enjoyed by a previous positive reviewer. Oh boy! you're in for it now.

It was with a measure of some relief that today, I noted, Baan Bophut had slipped in its TripAdvisor ranking from 6 last week to 15. As far as I could see, because of one review that scored us 3 (out of 5) and described the hotel as having a 'cold atmosphere' (that's a new one). I don't know how TripAdvisor's algorithm calculates the ranking, but I'm much happier at 15 than sixth, and so somewhat removed from the imminent and ever-present peril and sense of foreboding faced by those in the top ten.

An Irish guy, pleasant chap and a guest at the hotel with his miserable wife, once told me that his missus would give us a lousy review. I thought we'd looked after them well and asked why. "She always does" he replied (can't do the accent) "It's her time of life". Hell's teeth! How do you get around that one?

My advice for what its worth? Be objective and keep your expectations fairly low. That way you're unlikely to be too disappointed, and less likely to stiff the hotel that inevitably, can't get everything right for all of its guests, all of the time.

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