Toulson Court in Scarborough was named World’s Best B&B on Tripadvisor. Find out how you can use Tripadvisor to your advantage and the different business plans available for you to use. James and Angela Rusden, owners of Toulson Court, also explain how reviews are your best friend and what you can do to encourage guests to leave more reviews.
There’s no doubt that OTAs and channel managers can be a huge help when it comes to running a hospitality business.
But as you go down the rabbit hole of choosing the right OTAs for you, it can be easy to overlook other platforms that might be helpful.
Tripadvisor is an online travel platform that helps 463 million people each month to make the most of their travels.
Users can access sites, forums, online travel guides, user generated reviews and more.
At the end of the day – if you travel anywhere, Tripadvisor is the place to scout out the best things to do, see and visit.
According to Statista, in 2021 Tripadvisor’s total number of user reviews and opinions reached approximately one billion, covering listings for restaurants, attractions, holiday rentals and hotels.
So how can this benefit you as a business owner?
We spoke to James and Angela Rusden, owners of Toulson Court in Scarborough who were named the Best B&B in the World by Tripadvisor, to find out how they use this particular online travel platform.
Getting set up and subscription options
“I think nearly everywhere has a Tripadvisor account, you’ve just got to go online and claim it,” said James. “But if you set up a new business, or you want to change the name of your business, you can contact Tripadvisor to set up or update your account.”
James and Angela inherited their Tripadvisor account from the previous owner of Toulson Court so they only need to update their contact details, but they said it’s very easy to set up an account if your business isn’t already on there.
If you haven’t already, claim your listing here.
“They will also ask you if you would like to subscribe, because you can have the professional version or the free version,” explained James.
Free tools for business owners include:
Take control of your listing. Customise your listing details, upload photos, and more to show customers what makes your business special.
Join the conversation and respond to reviews. Access free tools to generate more feedback for your business.
Track your performance. Access key insights to help you analyse, and build on, your performance.
For those who want to get more out of their Tripadvisor listing, there are a number of different ‘subscription’ models you can purchase to enhance your performance.
Tripadvisor products available for business owners:
(Information from Tripadvisor.co.uk)
- Impact your ranking and bubble score on Tripadvisor: Make it easy for travellers to brag about their stay and build your credibility along the way.
– Lean on Tripadvisor to deliver automated review requests on your behalf.
– Reach your guests where they are. Collect more reviews across email, text, and app
- Never miss a review: Stay connected with your guests by responding to their thoughts, suggestions, and concerns.
– Get real-time review notifications so you can deal with issues as they arise and thank travellers for positive reviews
– Choose when and how you’re notified so you can act quickly on guest feedback
- Save time in responding to guests: Easily manage your reputation across multiple platforms.
– See your reviews across Tripadvisor, Google, Facebook and the largest OTA’s, all on the same page
– Use one centralised dashboard to respond to reviews
- Improve the guest experience: Get a summary of Tripadvisor’s review insights to see what’s driving guest feedback (and benchmark against competitors)
– Use Tripadvisor’s industry-leading review insights — and take actionable steps to make guests love you even more
– Discover what’s driving both positive and negative guest feedback, and benchmark your review performance against your competitors
- Bring your property to life: Show guests what they can expect and what makes you special.
– Hand-select your Favourite Review and photos that you want featured on Tripadvisor
– Add videos & a promotional Storyboard: Tell your story with visuals that showcase property highlights
- Convert traveller demand: Make booking direct easier than ever with easy mobile tap-to-call features, special offers and more.
– Convert traveller demand to direct bookings by adding contact details on your listing page
– Customise exclusive Special Offers guests can click to redeem on your site — from discounts to free upgrades
- Unlock competitor insights: Track your performance over time and get valuable insights from guests and competitors.
– See traffic and ranking trends in your market; discover what travellers care about most by tracking clicks
– Learn how your photo engagement and amenities stack up against your competitors’
- Gain exposure: Reach ready-to-book travellers through high-profile ad placements across Tripadvisor.
– Move up in search results for hotels in your area
– Showcase your property to travellers when they are researching competitive properties
- Increase direct bookings (and profitability): Promote your rates and hotel links in each ad to drive direct bookings.
– Secure prominent placement in your ad to stand out against OTAs and save on third-party commissions
– Use Tripadvisor’s predictive data and automated targeting to reach high-intent travellers as they search in your area
- Manage and optimise: Understand your performance and design your campaigns to meet your goals.
– Customise your budget and ad schedule to run for key dates or periods of low occupancy
– Only appear when your property matches traveller search criteria (e.g. Budget, Pool, Travel Safe etc.)
With a number of options available, you can choose whichever suits you the best.
“We’re not a big business, so what we pay for Tripadvisor is something that we look at each year, asking ourselves if it is worth it,” said James. “The one we subscribe to has a number of features I like and find useful.”
Tripadvisor recently introduced TripConnect, an instant booking service allowing users to immediately book a stay with you on Tripadvisor.
“We don’t subscribe to TripConnect,” explained James, “we direct people to our website for bookings.”
Reviews and Ratings
With so many people visiting Tripadvisor to read reviews from previous guests, you want to be putting your best foot forward.
This means encouraging your guests to leave reviews, making it easy for them to do so, responding to reviews and increasing visibility.
“Many people will book using an OTA or directly with the property, but they will look at Tripadvisor because that’s where you can get a real flavour for the guest experience,” said Angela.
“Tripadvisor is where you can get a real flavour for the guest experience.”
“Tripadvisor will provide really honest opinions because it’s someone’s real experience and that’s how your guests will know if your property is right for them, by reading those reviews.”
James said: “These days, four star reviews aren’t good enough anymore. We go out of our way to provide a great service and do everything to fulfil the needs and requirements of our guests.
“If someone doesn’t leave a review, it doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy their stay.”
“But I can also look at the competitors we have in Scarborough on Tripadvisor to see what they offer. I can then compare ourselves to them, but we offer a lot more than anybody else in our area.”
By offering a lot more than anyone else in their area, it’s easier to secure repeat business, which in turn makes it easier to secure reviews from your guests.
“Once you get repeat business, they’re quite happy to review you because they like you,” said James.
“It’s like an online version of your visitors book,” said Angela, “and it works the same as a physical book; some people will leave a review, and some won’t.
“But if they don’t, that doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy their stay.”
Since COVID, an option to leave a review online might seem more appealing to some guests as it can be done in their own time, from anywhere.
So how do you encourage people to leave you an online review?
James and Angela use an online booking system called freetobook to manage their calendar.
“Freetobook will send people a follow up email, asking guests to leave us a review, but I don’t believe in pestering people,” said James.
Despite not wanting to pester people about leaving a review, James does think you should acknowledge the reviews you do get.
“I do think you need to reply to every single review, because if someone has taken the effort to write one, you should make the effort to reply to it,” he said.
“It doesn’t have to be in a personal way. I do have some standard replies that I copy and paste, but if their name is on the review, make sure you use their name.
“Or if I remember something funny about their stay, I might mention that.”
He added: “A personal reply is nice, but reviews can be left anonymously so you won’t always know who it is.
“But where you do know who it is, try to leave a personal reply.”
Aside from trying to leave personal replies where you can, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for your guests to actually leave a review in the first place.
“On our website I have a direct link to our Tripadvisor listing,” said James.
“So, if somebody says they don’t know how or where to leave a review, it’s right there on the website. They will need to log into Tripadvisor, but they will be able to do it straight from our website.”
To make it even easier, James uses widgets to direct guests to the correct web pages.
“I’ve got someone who designs the website for me, but they’ve put a Tripadvisor widget at the bottom to make it easier.
“So if someone is still struggling to figure out how to leave a review, they can just look for the Tripadvisor widget and click on that,” explained James.
Things to remember:
Jame’s explained it’s all about making Tripadvisor work to your advantage.
“Use the widgets on your website to make it easy for people to find the review page,” said James.
“And use the Tripadvisor logo so that people immediately associate you with a review site.”
Angela also added: “It’s really important to remember that TripAdvisor reviews are not the be all and end all.
“It’s the service that you provide that’s the most important thing.”
6 Top Tips
- Compare the different business plans available for owners on Tripadvisor and choose the one that’s right for you (price, tools available etc.)
- Don’t pester guests to leave a review. Ask once in person and one email reminder.
- Make it as easy as possible for people to leave a review by using direct links and widgets
- Reply to every single review you receive
- Try to make your replies personal where you can
- Remember that reviews aren’t the be all and end all