In 2007, we took over a horribly run-down property and began the slow process of converting it into 11th Avenue Hostel. During those 12 years, we experienced the repercussions of cruel reviews, low-quality photos, and unhappy guests due to misleading information or the lack of understanding of what a hostel is.
Thankfully, the result of these mishaps allowed us to become knowledgeable about improving and maintaining our online reputation, rolling with the punches, and making sure our business shone online.
Below, we’ll share some tried and true techniques to help hostels maintain their online reputation in an increasingly competitive digital world.
This post is a guest post from Sydney Ilg from the 11th Avenue Hostel. She delivered an excellent presentation at the American Hostel Conference and was kind enough to share her insights with BackpackerBiz readers as well.
Information is power
The BackpackerBiz blog gives you weekly insights into the hostel industry. Stay aware, learn from others, power your hostel's success. Once a week, always hostel related.
When it comes to advertising, putting your best foot forward is important. That means having a clear preview of your property across all platforms including: online travel agencies (OTA’s), your website, Facebook, Instagram, and any other digital platforms you participate in.You know your property better than anyone else, so create a master document that includes your property description, amenities list, contact information, website, social media info, and unique selling points. Save it and use it as a tool to quickly join OTA’s and update your website. In the same folder, keep 25 of your favorite property photos for easy access. This master document can also be helpful when you seek press coverage down the road, to ensure media outlets are not portraying your brand improperly.
Be honest about your business online. If a room is small, denote it in the description. If you charge a towel deposit, make sure guests know ahead of time. If you don’t have parking, give suggestions on where to park. You want your guest’s expectations to clearly align with reality so when they arrive there are no surprises. Absolutely do not lie to your guests. If you’re a few blocks from the beach, it’s probably better to say “within steps of the beach” instead of “right next to the beach” to ensure guests know what they’re getting themselves into, so they are delighted when they arrive, instead of disappointed.
When in doubt, follow the KISS method. Having clear, concise descriptions and titles is key to your success. Be straightforward about your policies, expectations, building quirks and more. This will protect you from accusations of false advertising and avoid managerial headaches. Also, if you have more than five room types, you may want to think about simplifying your inventory. People like options, but too many options can leave them feeling overwhelmed and encourage them to book with another property. Try to make their decision simple.
The internet is an ever-changing and rapidly evolving platform, just like your business is. I suggest companies try to update something on their website at least once a month to keep it fresh and ensure it is showing up in Google Search results. If you rearrange your furniture, photograph the changes and upload them to your OTA’s. Ensure that fresh, accurate content is readily available for every guest, so their expectations are reasonable.
Bright, high-quality photos are a must for any business online. Skip the iPhone photography and hire a property photographer for one round of photos of your property. Photograph every square inch of guest space from multiple angles. Important note: If you choose to photograph people and use them in your listings, be sure to receive photo releases from subjects, and ensure your models represent a diverse group.
You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. Guests will often breeze through information when booking. Don’t take it personally when people avoid your hard work or ignore it completely. However, having all your information readily available online will help protect you from disputes and complaints. Take the challenges in stride. You’re doing just fine.
A passionate advocate for communal-travel and community-minded business, Sydney Ilg currently manages all marketing and branding for the re-emerging 11th Avenue Hostel in Denver, Colorado, an endeavor she joyfully takes on with her family.
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