The Middle East has had a few bumps over the last few months, but nothing that general managers and their teams can’t tackle. According to the STR data revealing Middle East/Africa hotel performance for Q3 2017, hotels in the Middle East reported occupancy fell 2.8% to 60.9%, and an 8.1% ADR decrease to US $145.50 drove RevPAR down 10.7% to $88.61.

All in all, the region is grappling with the concerns around increased supply, along with the competition it presents, and how to deal with the increasing number of guests who turn to online reviews before booking a hotel stay.


It’s no secret that online reviews  and ratings are still very important for hotels; but over the years however, many a hotelier has, off-the-record, shared horror stories on fake reviews.

Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort general manager Omar Souab told Hotelier: “An online review is as important as a personal recommendation as travellers are increasingly driven to hotels based on online reviews. A 2011 study led by Boston-based global research firm Forrester has proven this. They found that close to 50% of consumers are unlikely to book a hotel that does not have online reviews.”

Patrick Antaki, complex general manager of Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, Fujairah and Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, commented: “Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. It has become an important global platform for travellers to voice their opinions, which is so much easier to do behind a keyboard. Travellers are not inhibited to share a good or lousy experience, and this transparency is good. While positive reviews are appreciated, negative reviews must be dealt with carefully. Hoteliers must look at the concerns and address the reviewer cautiously. We have been fortunate to have genuine reviews on TripAdvisor, which leads to increased business.”

One of the general managers surveyed said a challenge in this region is “to deal with negative online comments where we have no grip on the purposeful blackmailing of some guests” — echoing what has been shared with Hotelier previously.

When asked about this trend, Frasers Hospitality area manager — pre-opening Middle East & Africa Cyril Warsono reported: “TripAdvisor is very important, as people read reviews when they want to make a decision on where to eat or stay.” He said the trend is now largely to have what he referred to as “a social confirmation” before ironing out plans.

Iftikhar Hamdani, the cluster general manager of Ramada Hotel & Suites Ajman, Ramada Beach Hotel Ajman, and Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche, also weighed in on this. He said that online reviews from TripAdvisor, alongside the comments and ratings from booking websites, have significant impact on business. “The trends are changing as we have recently seen an increase in direct online bookings and these reviews and feedback highly influence the guests in choosing their hotel, on top of the pricing and facilities,” he added.

Recognising the importance of these sites, Hamdani was behind launching a Guest Happiness Committee in July this year with the aim of improving the guest experience and ratings on review websites. “We pooled in members from various departments including the executive office, sales and marketing, and front office departments, who will be responsible for monitoring feedback from different review websites and taking the necessary actions,” he explained.

Premier Inn Hotels dual site GM Pawel Guminski pointed out that it’s not just TripAdvisor, but and Google Reviews hoteliers need to think about. Guminski said: “I can’t stress enough the importance of online reputation when it comes to hotels located in Dubai and beyond. It  should be on the top of our agenda as this brings the future customer, whether leisure or business.”

On the topic of fake reviews, all hoteliers mentioned that reporting fake reviews to the platform as soon as they are found is of uptmost importance, so that they can be deleted.

Guminski added: “However our target is to wow our guests and drive the volumes of genuine opinions. Even if fake reviews appear, they will get lost in hundreds of real ones.”

He continued: “Hotels’ online reputation evolved  as a possible addition to revenue strategies, especially in a competitive market. It is important to gather feedback and distribute it in a smart way so hotels can increase their visibility on social media and booking platforms, as well as drive traffic to hotel website. It is, and will be even more, important to start using Guest Satisfaction Index in comparison to Revenue Generation Index. Those two are directly linked (apart from many more factors affecting RGI).”

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