Thursday, August 18

Hotels Looking to Renovate Now Have a New Source for Inspiration: Online Reviews

When it comes to making major renovations, hotels are looking to a source other than interior decorators these days. Now it’s all about online review websites to guide new hotel furniture installations and improvements to the overall visit.

Hotels in New York City are becoming more savvy when it comes to monitoring review sites such as TripAdvisor.com and Yelp.com, and booking sites like Hotels.com. Because customers are more likely to write their criticisms online than tell a manager, these websites have given hotel owners a new way to improve their services.

Complaints on these websites can range from preferences that owners can’t do much about, like the hotel’s location, to other, more manageable issues, most commonly including water pressure in the shower, slow WiFi, uncomfortable beds and outdated furnishings.

At St. Regis New York, managers noted many customer reviews bemoaning the number of light switches in the guest rooms. General manager Hermann Elger said that these complaints pushed the hotel to install a single master light switch in each room.

Bathroom lighting is another contributor to negative online reviews. The Loews Regency in New York discovered this issue thanks to customer feedback, and their design team made the appropriate changes afterwards.

As for why this appears to be a frequent issue, Paul Whetsell, president and CEO of Loews Hotels, explained that, “Sometimes designers design our bathrooms to look good but not necessarily be totally functional. Lighting is something that’s mentioned on social quite often.”

Visitors may skip out on contacting a manager during their stay to post on sites for a variety of reasons. The most important, it seems, is to let other travelers know about their experiences.

Janae Lee, a tech executive and frequent traveler, said she leaves reviews “so others like me don’t find themselves in the same situation I found myself.”

Plus, said Lee, negative reviews and constructive feedback can garner more attention from management than a single verbal complaint.

After arriving at a New York hotel for a business trip — one she’d been to before — she realized that the Starbucks and other dining options that were once inside the hotel were no longer present. A similar incident occurred for Lee on a business trip to San Francisco.

Lee said she brought the matter to management’s attention, but they didn’t do anything to resolve the issue. So she took to the internet to air her complaints instead.

Bill Basinas, a marketing executive for a technology company, had a poor experience at a Brazilian hotel and also made sure to leave a review online. His stay included a malfunctioning air conditioner and windows that wouldn’t close tightly, leading to a very noisy night in the room.

Basinas noted a similar trend in terms of management response to online customer complaints. Where the days before internet review sites resulted in a “slow-at-best process to get any kind of response,” he said, “in this public forum, [hotel management is] kind of pressured to respond.”

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