An interesting article from HOTELMARKETING.com talks about a decline in consumer satisfaction with the online travel industry. This comes at the same time that overall consumer satisfaction with online commerce is rising. Is this a problem for our innkeepers?
To the extent that the report from the University of Michigan and ForeSee Results focuses on the portals like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Priceline, it doesn’t matter, as most small inns don’t use these travel sites. However, if you do use them, realize that the public perception, while not bad generally, has declined for two years running.
It seems to me that this report reinforces the mantra that unique inns excel at one thing above all others: personal service and doing a good job of assuring guest satisfaction. If you’re monitoring the travel review sites like TripAdvisor for comments about your bed & breakfast, you’ll know if your guests are feeling truly satisfied with their travel experience. If not, you need to pay attention. As Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results, said, "…survival in this economy depends on customer satisfaction, because switching costs are low and an alternative is just a mouse click away." Does that sound like "online booking?" It does to me!
Of importance, Mr. Freed also says, "Standing still is not an option. As the smaller players change the game, satisfaction with the big players will decline if they just tread water." While he’s talking about online travel aggregators, it sure sounds like good advice for innkeepers, too. The travel industry is up for grabs. Who will be around and flourishing five or ten years from now?