More than 1.4 million Australians are now logging on regularly to online travel website TripAdvisor and this figure is growing an average rate of 45% each year.
Speaking to SmartCompany from Singapore ahead of his appearance at the ADMA Engage Conference this week, TripAdvisor’s director of partnerships for the Asia Pacific, Aaron Hung, says TripAdvisor now holds 19% of the local market for online travel.
But it’s not just travellers who are flocking to the review-based site, with business owners increasingly realising the value of listing their motel or restaurant on the site. Around 16,000 Australian hotels, BnBs and rental accommodations are listed on TripAdvisor, along with 50,000 restaurants and 11,500 tourist attractions.
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Globally, 900,000 accommodation providers have listed their properties on TripAdvisor, alongside 2.4 million restaurants. The site operates in 28 languages in 45 countries and attracts 315 million visitors each year, who have uploaded 26 million photos.
Hung says “quite a large proportion” of the Australian businesses using TripAdvisor are SMEs, who are taking advantage of the free services the platform offers for marketing their businesses.
“With the number of users researching or contributing reviews [on TripAdvisor], to access a user base like that it would take any large company a significant marketing budget,” says Hung.
“But because of the free services, it is a very effective tool for small businesses that don’t necessarily have a marketing team.”
Listing your business on TripAdvisor is free, as is registering as a user, which gives you access to a range of free analytical tools in the ‘management centre’. Hung says registered users can also take advantage of widgets and badges to add to their own websites, as well as free designs and templates for invitations to encourage customers to leave reviews once they have stayed at your motel or eaten at your restaurant.
Reviews: The good, the bad and the fake
User reviews are the bread and butter of TripAdvisor and Hung says it is essential SMEs that use the platform encourage their customers to leave reviews.
This can be done through the platform’s ‘Review Express’ tool, which allows businesses to send out emails to customers to prompt reviews, or through a more traditional approach: handing over an invitation card at the end of a customer’s visit.
“Most businesses realise the more content they provide, the more it gives future customers a better sense of the service,” says Hung.
But there’s an even more important reason to encourage reviews on TripAdvisor: the more reviews you have, and the more recent they are, the higher your business will be ranked on the site.
But with any upside, there’s almost always a downside. In the case of TripAdvisor reviews the downside is the temptation for individuals or businesses themselves to post fake reviews.
“It does happen and there is a temptation for businesses to try,” says Hung of fake reviews.
“We have been doing this for 15 years and over the years there have been all kinds of different attempts. But our algorithm becomes more robust by the day and there is no point in trying now.”
Hung says every TripAdvisor review goes through a moderation process and “no review is posting without checking”. It’s because of TripAdvisor’s fraud detection filters that it takes up to two days for a new review to be posted to the site.
“We take accuracy very seriously,” he says. “For us, the most important things is giving content that is truthful, otherwise the customer won’t come back.”
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