Hamilton Island Enterprises (HIE) is unique in hospitality for many reasons. One reason is that the company owns the Whitsunday Island itself, as well as the attractions, the restaurants and the four main hotels located there. Another reason is that the company is on the forefront of social media measurement and ROI studies. While many hotels and management companies invest time and resources in online reviews because they intuitively understand the importance of online reputation, HIE is at the forefront of analyzing the financial return of social media management.
Hamilton Island was rated the most popular travel destination by Google Australia in 2011 and was the Island featured in the award winning “Best Job In The World” campaign. Each hotel on the island serves a specific visitor, from newlyweds seeking an unforgettable luxury honeymoon experience to families on school holidays looking for activities to suit every age. qualia is amongst the most highly awarded luxury retreats in Australia and has hosted celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Pink, Naomi Watts and Miranda Kerr to name just a few. The four-star Reef View Hotel is the most popular accommodation on Hamilton Island, especially with families and groups. Offering intimate boutique accommodation designed for couples, the Beach Club Resort has a tranquil location on Catseye Beach. Charming and reasonably priced, the Palm Bungalows are an affordable choice for guests seeking the privacy of a self-contained garden cabin.
HIE signed up for Revinate in May, 2011. At the time, staff were beginning to recognize the impact that online reviews were having on the travel business and wanted to ensure that they had an easy way to monitor all review sites to see what was being said about their properties. They were able to see all their online reviews in one place, and easily analyze how they were doing over time and against their competitor set. At that time, they were happy to simply automate what was previously a very manual process.
In 2012, after spending five months studying traffic to their booking engines, along with the effects of online reputation management, they put together a case for the hotels to spend even more time taking advantage of the opportunity. David Tan, HIE’s Online Marketing Executive says, “When I looked at all the data, there was no doubt that monitoring and managing online reviews made absolute business sense. Google Analytics showed a growing number of bookings involving Tripadvisor, and I realised that focusing efforts on guest review sites such as Tripadvisor would pay off.”
“The fact that we had the numbers to prove that the time investment would make sense was key in getting stakeholder buy-in. The Hotel General Managers were important advocates for increased focus on guest review sites. They were already using Revinate and found the software easy and quick to use.
The hotels’ standard operating procedures and Revinate technology help provide a process around reviews that takes into account the team’s busy schedule. David explains, “When new reviews come in, I use the ticketing feature in Revinate to comment on the review and suggest response ideas. Then I assign the ticket to the GM for feedback. On Wednesdays we post all of our review responses. Revinate makes it very easy to collaborate and then post the review responses, saving us a lot of time and coordination. In fact, we’ve been able to increase number of reviews we respond to from twenty in 2011 to over two hundred already this year.”
Revinate’s Sentiment Analysis reporting has been instrumental in allowing the hotels to see where they can improve. David says, “Revinate makes quick order of all our reviews and categorizes everything into topics so we can quickly wrap our head around what guests love and where we need to make changes. For example, when one of our hotels experienced an increase in negative housekeeping mentions we put an incentive plan in place which has led to improvements that guests are noticing and ultimately writing about in reviews. In addition, online feedback from guest review sites influenced our decisions to open up another restaurant on the island and renovate some of the Palm Bungalows in order to enhance our offering to guests.
Today, using the Multi-Channel Funnels tool in Google Analytics, HIE has been able to determine the ROI of its investment in online reputation management. David says, “We have found that for every one booking made directly through Tripadvisor, another two direct bookings on the website were influenced by Tripadvisor because Tripadvisor was a stepping stone on the path to them finally converting.” David adds, “In some ways, this billboard effect makes sense because people look at hotel reviews when they are in the middle of the sales funnel. They are planning a holiday and probably have an idea of where they want to go but they are open to recommendations from friends, family or people like them. For us, this means that the value of Revinate and online reputation management is actually much more than we previously assumed.”
To help the rest of the company understand the hotels’ progress on review sites and social media, David uses Google Analytics data as well as Revinate reports as part of his monthly roll-ups. He focuses on review frequency, review response rates, average ratings and Tripadvisor Popularity Index.
While the hotels are using content in online reviews to improve operations, guests are also noticing the hotels’ focus on online reviews. The general managers at the hotels have received dozens of emails from past guests and prospective guests letting them know that they are impressed that executives take the time to respond personally to online reviews and booked as a result. And these anecdotes are supported by data. Visits to www.hamiltonisland.com.au from Tripadvisor in 2012 tripled compared to the same time last year. Seven percent more revenue was received from Tripadvisor so far this year than was received in the whole 2 preceding years. Direct revenue from Tripadvisor has also more than doubled in 2012 compared to the same time last year.
In addition to providing an intuitive software solution that has allowed HIE to manage and improve its online reputation and online revenue stream, Revinate has proven itself to be a great partner. David says, “Revinate is one of our best supplier relationships. In addition to the VIP service and support we get from the client services team, the Revinate blog and best practices content has been an invaluable education source.
And if hotels measure impact through sales, Hamilton Island is also unique in this way: the number of room nights sold directly from Tripadvisor this year has almost doubled when compared to the same time last year.