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Improving Visitor Experiences Using TripAdvisor and Google

By Rebecca White
Published on April 5, 2018

Did you know that your destination’s visitor experience could be negatively impacted by missing or inaccurate information on TripAdvisor and Google?

Most destinations have a number of free or low cost local or state government managed visitor experiences which are an important part of delivering their local towns or wider regional visitor experience.

These include:

  • Land Based Attractions:  Parks, Playgrounds, Ovals, Reserves
  • Water Based Attractions: Lakes, Beaches, Jettys, Waterfalls
  • Tours + Historical Attractions: Museums, Walking Tours
  • Trails: Cycling, Walking
  • Geographic Features: Lookouts, Monuments, Caves

What’s the issue?

TripAdvisor and Google are key sources of visitor information before and during a customers purchase journey.

Visitors rely on TripAdvisor and Google as trusted sources of visitor information.

They use them to plan their trip itineraries, guide them what to see and do in a wider region or in a specific regional town or locality. They also use them to navigate around a region and also read reviews to decide if they should or shouldn’t visit and attraction.

Many destinations Ideal Customers will also often use TripAdvisor and Google at the expense of physically visiting a Visitor Information Centre!

So what’s the issue?

Most public owned or managed visitor experiences listed on TripAdvisor and Google are updated by “crowd-sourced” information from the general public.

When this happens it can present three challenges…

Missing Experiences

Some visitor experiences will be missing from Google and TripAdvisor, as they haven’t been added due to lack of public awareness of them.

Locals may be very familiar with them, but visitors wont be, so they haven’t added them to these platforms.

Visitors may therefore skip visiting a specific town or wider locality as they believe there isn’t much to see and do there, based on the lack of things they found (or didn’t find!) on TripAdvisor or Google.

Or when they are in a region they may miss visiting those public experiences, as they didn’t find them in their “TripAdvisor Nearby” search or “Google Map” or “Google Nearby Me” searches.

Negative Perceptions

When a TripAdvisor or Google listing has been crowd sourced, this means no-one is monitoring and replying to customer reviews.

This is fine if the reviews are positive.

However if people have left negative reviews that haven’t been addressed, visitors may take these negative reviews into consideration, and may decide to avoid visiting that experiences altogether.

Incorrect or Inaccurate Information

Finally, a crowd-sourced TripAdvisor or Google listing may be incomplete or incorrect.

This could include missing or incorrect opening hours, incorrect map location or missing contact details.

This can lead visitors to having a negative visitor experience due to the misleading or incorrect information they found on either TripAdvisor or Google.

We saw this exact issue recently in NSW, when the incorrect location of the Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains in Google Maps was sending some visitors 30km away from the actual spot they were trying to get to!

Not a good experience for them at all!

All three of these challenges can then ultimately lead to the same outcomes: Lack of Advocacy or even worse, Negative Advocacy for a destination. 

As word of mouth marketing and advocacy is the most trusted, low cost and effective source of marketing for your destination, you want to reduce these risks where possible.

So what is the solution?

With a bit of time and effort, these issues can be addressed by a destination by auditing, claiming, updating and optimise local or state government owned or managed visitor experiences in TripAdvisor and Google.

One of the best resources to help do this is your region’s visitor servicing staff.

They have detailed local knowledge of all the local public owned and managed visitor assets in a region.

We outline how they could do this in three simple steps below.

 

Experience Audit

The first step is to make a list of all the free or low cost local or state government visitor assets in a specific region.

  • These include Parks, Lookouts, Beaches, Jettys, Walking Tours, Parks, Museums,Playgrounds, Cycle Tracks, Walking Tracks, Waterfalls etc.
  • On the list, highlight which of these experiences are of most of interest to your region’s Ideal Customers. This is important so you can work out which listings can be ignored, and which need to be added or updated (the list could be very long, depending on the size of your region!).

Tips:

  • Use an Excel spreadsheet to collate all this information
  • Brainstorm the list as a team and then use the group’s knowledge to work out which experiences are most important to their destination’s Ideal Customers.

 

Platform Audit

The next stop is to audit the platforms

  • Jump into TripAdvisor
  • Search your local area’s “Things to Do” category, and then review all the relevant sub – categories, such as Nature & Parks, Sights & Landmarks, Geological Formations and Outdoor Activities.
  • What experiences are NOT listed? Keep a record in your Excel spreadsheet.
  • What experience listings are on there, but need to be claimed and/or updated? Again, keep track in the Excel spreadsheet.

Then repeat for Google.

Updates will need to be made directly in Google My Business.

Google My Business listings feed and populate information found in Google Search Results, Google Maps and Google Trips.

Add, Claim, Optimise and Respond

Finally, work your way through your excel spreadsheet list of experiences, and claim, add and/or update relevant listings. Also identify which ones you want ongoing monitoring to respond to customer reviews.

Make sure each listing has the correct opening hours and contact details, such as your local Visitor Centre phone number and a centrally monitored email address. Add your destination or local regional website.

To learn how to do this, following are detailed information on how to do this for each platform.

Challenges with resources?

We know time and budget is a big challenge for many VIC’s and their teams.

A way to keep costs down and save time on this project is to reach out to local Tourism Students and ask if they would like to help with the audit and listing updates as part of hands on and practical work experience.

Over to you

Has your Visitor Information Centre done this already? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments below?

Rebecca White

Rebecca is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. Rebecca loves working with tourism destinations & operators to create sustainable marketing strategies. Her specialty areas are tourism marketing strategy, visitor servicing, visitor engagement, social media, customer advocacy, customer experience, content marketing & blogging.

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