A general manager I recently spoke with really put into perspective the power TripAdvisor, in particular, and other social media and online rating sites can have. He said they've made AAA, Forbes and even brands less relevant. Twenty years ago, he said, you trusted those things and the Marriotts and Hiltons and relied on those names to choose reliable accommodations.
Now, in real time, consumers can fire up TripAdvisor to find out the quality of any restaurant, hotel or attraction from ratings done by their peers. This certainly isn't news to you, and you'd probably have to be living under a rock not to know this. But it really hit home to me because I was on a weeklong road trip with my family and we were using TripAdvisor's mobile application to guide us to restaurants and attractions, and even a hotel or two.
On the drive home, we wanted to stay at a particular branded hotel, but online reviews indicated the air conditioner had been broken as recently as two days prior to our planned stay. Before booking (through the brand.com site), I called the property to make sure it was working.
Consumers have more information and power at their fingertips than ever before. I understood that before my trip, but now I've actually experienced it. There are probably others like me every day realizing this.
Online reputation matters. Some of your guests will detail your inadequacies online, and if you're not prepared to deal with this reality, you're going to face an uphill battle in winning over an increasingly tech savvy traveling public.