TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring US-based B2B hotel reviewing service GuestBook.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
An emerging online review service from GuestBook provides an innovative approach for hotels to directly benefit from their own guest reviews.
GuestBook was founded by Alan Hollander, whose background includes work in technology industries as a VC and M&A advisor.
Maureen O’Hanlon is a consultant to GuestBook. She is a former chair of HSMAI and currently a senior partner with The Prism Partnership, an affiliate company to ISM, a travel and hospitality strategic marketing firm.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
What problem are you trying to solve?
GuestBook is designed to counterbalance OTA review websites by turning to a hotel’s advantage the competitive review factor that affects online reservations.
A recent study found that "OTA shoppers who visit hotel review pages are twice as likely to convert". GuestBook enables hotels to increase their conversion rate by providing visitors to their website a direct link to see the hotel’s guest reviews posted on GuestBook.
Describe the business, core products and services?
GuestBook is an independent hotel review website that provides a separate page for each hotel's guest reviews. A hotel can display a link to its GuestBook webpage on its website, its Facebook page, and on its Google Place page.
- GuestBook’s invitation system leverages the hotel’s relationship with its own guests. By using an invitation process, GuestBook enables a hotel to obtain more reviews than are posted on other review sites and from many guests who would not otherwise consider posting a review. For a hotel that uses post-stay email surveys, Guestbook can be integrated to allow guests to post a review as part of the survey. This is done using a web service that enables survey vendors to automatically send to GuestBook the reviews and ratings derived from the guests’ answers to survey questions. If a hotel does not use post-stay email surveys, GuestBook provides the hotel with a number of options to invite guests to post reviews using email and/or printed invitations. Each of these invitations contains a unique code to ensure that only actual hotel guests can post reviews. These codes also make the login process simple for guests and avoid requiring any registration.
- Reviews for each hotel are posted on a dedicated webpage with information about the hotel and links back to the hotel’s website and to its reservation system. Since a potential guest cannot access other outside links from the webpage, a hotel’s GuestBook webpage functions as an extension of the hotel’s website. In addition, there are no comparisons to other hotels and no advertisements so a potential guest remains focused only on the hotel’s guest reviews.
Links to GuestBook webpage:
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
- A hotel directs its website visitors to its webpage by placing a GuestBook “Read Our Reviews” icon on its website. A hotel can also attract visitors to its GuestBook webpage from websites where travelers may be seeking reviews of the hotel. For example, a hotel can place a link on its Google Place Page and use GuestBook’s Facebook app to add an “Our Reviews” tab to its Facebook Page.
The Washington Court Hotel on Capitol Hill, which began a pilot in August 2010, has already seen guests post reviews at a greater rate and with higher satisfaction, than on other review websites.
Following this success, GuestBook recently signed up The Steamboat Grand in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Customers are currently validating the benefits of using GuestBook.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
GuestBook is provided on annual subscription basis to hotels.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
GuestBook’s invitation system leverages the hotel’s relationship with its own guests. By using an invitation process, GuestBook enables a hotel to obtain more reviews than are posted on other review sites and from many guests who would not otherwise consider posting a review.
The challenge is the convince hotels that it is better to have reviews accessible on the hotel’s website even if though all hotels should expect to receive a certain number of critical reviews.
Accor’s recent decision to implement the TripAdvisor widget on all of their hotel pages supports this business proposition. Accor’s executive VP marketing and distribution says in an interview that by providing a link to reviews on a hotel's website, guests will stay longer and he therefore expects more guests to book their room on Accor Hotels.
GuestBook provides a similar option for hotels, but without the risk of travelers being "lured away by other hotels" (as the interviewer asks) if they click through to see all of the reviews on TripAdvisor.
The GuestBook invitation system does respond to one of the most frequent criticisms of TripAdvisor since it does prevent negative reviews from competitors and disgruntled employees who do not stay as guests at the hotel.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
Actually, nearly everyone in the industry responded favorably to the idea.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
GuestBook has not yet started its marketing campaign and does not have specific success metrics developed at this time.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.