Monday, November 7, 2011

Marriott to Let Guests Post Online Reviews

USA Today: A second hotel giant aims to give TripAdvisor a bit of competition. This time, it's Marriott, Hotel Check-In has learned.

Soon, you'll be able to submit your review of the Marriott Marquis in New York, the Marriott Courtyard near Orlando's convention center or a number of other Marriott-brand hotels - regardless of the quality of your experience.

You may recall Hotel Check-In's exclusive story recently about Starwood's plan to begin allowing Starwood Preferred Guest members and other customers to publish hotel reviews.

Well now, Marriott's taking a similar approach - and Marriott senior vice president Ed French told me about it during our chat Friday at Marriott headquarters.

Marriott will run the reviews on a separate site called Marriott Rewards Insiders, which currently has 25,000 members with profiles but is rapidly growing, says French, head of marketing platforms and Marriott Rewards.

Like Starwood, Marriott will confirm whether a review writer actually stayed in the hotel before publishing the review, eliminating skepticism that a bad review might come from someone looking to undermine a hotel's reputation for whatever reason.

Also like Starwood, Marriott does not plan to offer incentives to customers to write reviews.

Initially, travelers will be able to review about 280 properties in 11 of Marriott's top markets such as New York, Orlando, Atlanta, the Caribbean and Hawaii. Each property will get its own page, he says.

I asked him the obvious: Won't posting bad reviews be negative for the brand?

"We've probably all had those conversations," he says. "You can understand if there's a natural fear."

But he says the reviews - positive and negative - are out there anyway on the web on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.

Plus, he thinks that Marriott's most loyal customers will value hearing from other people like them - people who may stay in Marriott hotels 50, 70 or 100 nights per year.

Bad reviews that are posted will be read by staffers assigned to the site, as well as individual property staffers who will then follow up on an as-needed basis.

Bottom line, he says, is that allowing people to air their opinions will help create a more active fan base - something that hotels consider valuable in today's increasingly social-media-driven world.

"We want people to be more a engaged," he says. "And this is what people want to do."

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