Hotels

Hotel insider hails online gamechanger

Ed Jackson - AAP

It’s the internet phenomenon that has become the lifeblood of the worldwide hotel industry.

The power of TripAdvisor to make or break a hotel has meant urging customers to fill out a review after their stay is now almost as much a part of the checking out process as signing off on the bill.

One of the country’s most experienced hoteliers says since it emerged in 2000, TripAdvisor has forever altered how the industry operates.

“It’s put a lot more pressure on hotels – operators and owners – because everything is so, so transparent now,” the Hotel School’s Lloyd Donaldson told AAP.

“It has changed the industry, certainly, over the last 10 years or so. It’s do-or-die … if there’s a series of negative comments about a hotel or about an experience, or multiple issues, people will go elsewhere.”

Donaldson has spent most of his life working in hospitality, travelling to 48 countries and estimates 10 of his 55 years have been spent living in hotels.

An ambassador for the Melbourne and Sydney-based Hotel School – a specialised tertiary institution which trains students for careers in hospitality and hotel management – Donaldson says the digital age is creating new opportunities and new challenges to accommodation providers worldwide.

He says potential guests should use rating websites like TripAdvisor with caution however, assessing the quality of reviews as much as they are the hotel.

“There are people that will always want to have a whinge or have a complain about something but I think most savvy travellers can see through that,” he said.

“They can see a comment about a hotel that perhaps is unfair.

“When it starts dealing with cleanliness and hygiene, inexperienced staff and the quality of your food – and it’s a recurring issue – then it becomes a pattern on TripAdvisor and needs to be taken seriously.”

Another game-changing player in the online world is Airbnb.

Founded in 2008, the website allows people to list, find and rent lodging across the globe.

Donaldson doesn’t however believe traditional hotels and Airbnb offerings are mutually exclusive, saying the two methods attract different clients.

“Airbnb doesn’t provide the same level of service as you might enjoy in a hotel or a resort for example,” he said.

“There are people that perhaps decide if they’re going to stay in a particular destination somewhere for two weeks, it might be beneficial for them to rent a property.

“The way in which people spend money on holidays is going to change more towards those very unique experiences and the internet provides more access for people now.

“There’s so many more destinations, so quite often the decision is not about the hotel or the accommodation, it’s about the destination and the facilities that are available.”

FIVE TOP TIPS FOR MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR HOLIDAYS

* Decide what you want to do on the holiday. You can then search for hotels or resorts that offer or have access to what you want to do.

* Use a travel agent. Doing it yourself online is fine but travel agents still have access to deals and discounts industry outsiders just can’t get. Agents are also best for multiple destinations.

* Speak to as many people as you know who have experience of your destination. First-hand knowledge can prove invaluable.

* If in doubt, stick with a major hotel brand which will guarantee a certain standard and have a head office for complaints if something goes awry.

* Book ahead. Pre-plan your trip as much as possible, including excursions or activities to avoid missing out.

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