Hospitality experts call for cooperation between hotels and consumer review websites at HSMAI conference

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The Hilton London Metropole

Leading experts in the hotel and travel industry have this week called for greater cooperation between hotels and customer review websites such as TripAdvisor in a bid to provide accurate feedback to the consumer as the UK government-backed hotel ratings systems comes under review.

At the first ever HSMAI conference held this week in London, TripAdvisor’s Guillaume Thevenot underlined his belief that government-backed ratings will die out, with the consumer championing online feedback sites.  Certain hotel industry figures on the panel and in the audience argued that an official ratings system is needed alongside online consumer feedback, which can be inaccurate.

The hotel expert and novelist, Daniel Edward Craig, responded with a call to hotels to adapt to the growing online feedback presence by engaging and responding to clarify any inaccuracies.  UK-based Q Hotels, represented on the panel, announced that it has already implemented a ‘response to TripAdvisor’ feedback as part of their marketing strategy and the panel agreed this ability to adapt is what is needed in the hotel industry.

Members of the audience acknowledged the positives in such steps by the hotel industry but questioned what online feedback sites are doing in return, calling for the likes of TripAdvisor to share business intelligence and create clearer demographic divisions in their ratings.

Ingunn Hofseth, President and CEO of HSMAI Europe, commented:

“Our first ever conference in London brought together some of the greatest minds in the hotel and travel industry from across Europe resulting in a thrilling and lucrative debate on the UK ratings system.  The fact that we are a pan-European organisation meant that  we were able to discuss every aspect of key industry issues and start to address them from every possible angle.”

Michael Nowlis, London Business SchoolMichael Nowlis (right) of the London Business School, who chaired the panel discussion, said:

“The panel discussion was one of the most insightful sessions of the day, with the audience and panellists challenging one another with very probing questions.  While I agree that hotels need to engage consumers online, interesting points were raised about consumer review sites needing to create a more sophisticated feedback system.  Faced with the potential disappearance of an official UK hotel ratings system, this issue takes on even greater significance.”

Ms Jorunn Svidal, Director of Revenue Management, Thon Hotels and one of the panelists, added:

“Coming from a country that has never had an official ratings system, we don’t see any need for a government-backed system. However, the online world is daunting for hotels and this fear needs to be addressed. We need to discuss such issues in the open and today is a big step towards that.”

Top photo: The Hilton London Metropole, venue for last Monday’s conference.