Trump Hotels and the Reputation Problem

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

Given that so many people have a stake in the Trump brand, was it responsible or prudent for Trump to run for the presidency on such a contentious platform?

Early last year, when a recruiter asked if I was interested in putting my name forward for a soon-to-open position as general manager of Trump Hotel in Toronto, I was conflicted. Donald J. Trump hadn’t yet announced his presidential bid; he was merely an outspoken, controversial character. And his hotel company was fast gaining a reputation for exceptional hospitality.

The year prior, I had lunch at Trump New York with a friend who was an executive with Trump Hotels, and he had nothing but praise for Trump and his family. After lunch, he took me on a tour, and the property wasn’t over-the-top and garish, as I expected, but tastefully designed and relatively understated.

Nevertheless, I had enough distaste for Trump’s politics to know that I couldn’t work for him. But before I could decline the opportunity, the company decided I wasn’t “the right fit.”

It was no sweat for me. I didn’t want or need the job. But what about the thousands of employees who depend on the Trump brand for their livelihood and now find themselves caught in the cross hairs of an ugly presidential campaign?

Trump has lent his name to a range of products, including wines, clothing and golf resorts, but it’s perhaps the hotels that stand to suffer the most. Why? Because Trump’s campaign rhetoric contravenes the spirit of hospitality.  Read more »

Does It Really Pay to Book Direct?

By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

These days, hoteliers talk a good game when trying to convince travelers to book directly. “Stop Clicking Around,” Hilton urges in a current campaign. “It Pays to Book Direct,” Marriott promises. “The Best Place to Book is Right Here,” proclaims Hyatt.

Most major hotel brands and many independent hotels now offer a best rate guarantee and incentives for direct bookings. It’s part of an industry-wide movement to change traveler behavior and reduce the amount of commissions hotels pay to online travel agencies. The underlying message of these campaigns is, “Trust us. Skip OTAs and book direct for the best deal.”

But can travelers really trust hotels to uphold this promise? As a traveler, time and again I’m dismayed to find better offers on OTAs than on hotel websites.

Most recently, while planning a five-night stay in New York, I found a great deal on for a five-star hotel, part of a well-known brand. Like a good ex-hotelier, I went to the hotel’s website to book direct, but the rates were much higher there, so I called the hotel. The reservations agent was reluctant to match the offer, questioned its validity, and asked me to email a screen shot. Eventually, she agreed to match the rate.  Read more »

Is your hotel safe from reputation threats?

In Reknown’s next free webinar with ReviewPro, we discuss how to protect your hotel’s online reputation from everything from a bad review to a full-blown social media crisis.

Topics include:

• What to do if a guest issue goes viral
• How to respond effectively to social media attacks
• What to do about detractors, trolls and review threats
• Brandjacking: how to stop OTAs from bidding on your hotel’s brand name
• Policies, procedures and prevention
• Strengthening your hotel’s online reputation

Join Fiona Gillen of ReviewPro and Daniel E. Craig of Reknown for this fun, interactive webinar, and gain insight and practical tips to help your hotel weather any social media storm.

Click here to register for this free one-hour webinar on Tuesday, September 27, 2016.

If you miss the date, visit ReviewPro’s Resource Hub to view the webinar on demand.


Our Next Webinar Is About Taking Control of OTA Business

Webinar - Optimizing Your Hotel's OTA Strategy ReviewPro Reknown 2
As more hotel companies devise strategies for attracting direct business away from online travel agencies, one thing remains clear: OTAs will continue to play an important role in the channel mix.

In my next webinar with ReviewPro, Optimizing Your Hotel’s OTA Strategy, instead of the usual OTA-bashing being undertaken in the hotel industry, we’ll focus on how to get OTA business working for your hotel.

Topics include:

1. The Role of OTAs in Hotel Marketing

2. Costs of Acquisition & Channel Mix

3. Negotiating with OTAs

4. Optimizing Your OTA Presence

5. Converting OTA Guests to Direct Bookers

6. Managing Reviews on OTAs

Webinar - Optimizing Your Hotel's OTA Strategy ReviewPro Reknown

We’re excited to announce a panel of seasoned travel industry experts: Cindy Estis Green, CEO and Co-founder, Kalibri Labs; Max Starkov, President & CEO, HeBS Digital; and RJ Friedlander, Founder & CEO of ReviewPro. This is a rare opportunity to hear these respected industry veterans share their top tips and strategies.

Click here to register today.

Hope to see you there! If you miss it, you will be able to view the recorded webinar on demand by visiting ReviewPro’s Resource Hub.


Customer Relationship Management for Hotels

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Hotels - Reknown Travel Marketing
By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

In my next webinar with ReviewPro, we tackle a big, complex topic for hotels: Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

As more third parties get between your hotel and your guests, CRM provides opportunities to connect directly with guests before, during and after their stay and develop long-lasting, profitable relationships.

Customer Relationship Management can be defined as “Practices, strategies and technologies used by businesses to manage, analyze and improve customer interactions and experiences throughout the customer lifecycle.”

All too often, a frequent guest checks in to a hotel, and the front desk asks, “Have you stayed with us before?” With all the tools and data available to hotel staff today, there is no excuse for this to happen. Staff should have access to rich guest profiles, history and preferences. CRM is about recognizing your guests and catering to their individual needs.

Webinar - Best Practices is Customer Relationship Management for Hotels - Reknown Travel MarketingWe’re thrilled to have a panel of experts joining us for the webinar: Duane Hepditch, President and CEO of Guestfolio; Tim Sullivan, President of Cendyn/ONE; and Tim Towle, Co-founder and Director of Product Development at ReviewPro.

The webinar will be broadcast on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. To register—or to listen to the recording if you missed it—click here.


Introducing the Home-tel Experience

In the lead-up to the premiere of Hotel Hell, Gordon Ramsay visits James Corden’s new B&B and discovers the best and worst of the home-sharing trend.

As the Big Players in Travel Diversify, Hotels Pursue New Strategies

The Race to Be the One-stop-shop for travel planning, Reknown Travel Marketing
By Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

Way back in the swinging sixties of the internet age (about five years ago), the roles of the major players in the travel industry were quite simple. Google was for search, TripAdvisor was for reviews, and Expedia and Priceline were for shopping for hotel rooms.

Today, as these companies look for new ways to satisfy shareholders’ insatiable appetite for growth, they are increasingly delving into each other’s territories, and traditional roles are changing.

The question is, will travelers follow? And how can hotels adapt to the new playing field?

It’s not always easy to determine where the big players are heading, but comments made by executives during quarterly earnings calls, when they must explain financial performance and reassure investors, are often revealing.

Growth of Alternative Accommodations
One of the most ominous signs for the hotel industry is the proliferation of the so-called sharing economy, which turns people’s homes into miniature hotels.

After years of tremendous growth, Expedia and Priceline have experienced a slowdown in hotel room bookings and are turning to alternative accommodations as a source of growth.

Last year, Expedia purchased vacation rental site HomeAway, which owns VRBO, and announced plans to “expand aggressively” in this market. During Priceline’s first quarter 2016 earnings call, interim CEO Jeffery Boyd reported that the company lists over 400,000 alternative accommodations. “We couldn’t be more enthusiastic for these types of accommodations,” he said.

And let’s not forget about Airbnb, whose listings make up an estimated 8 to 15% of hotel room supply in major cities in the U.S., according to a study from Bank of America Merrill Lynch late last year. (

The growth in alternative accommodations has been made possible by a combination of technology, which allows travelers to shop, compare and book offerings online as easily as hotels, and by guest reviews, which remove a lot of the risk and worry out of staying in a stranger’s home.

As the comfort level increases, the non-hotel sector will continue to expand beyond leisure travelers and vacation destinations to business travelers and urban destinations. The next great frontier? Group travel.

How big is the threat? Think about it. If every traveler rented out their home while on the road, there would be little need for hotels. Hotels may lament the commission they pay to OTAs, but it’s better than no booking at all.

The hotel industry may not feel the pain of a few points in lost occupancy when travel is on an upswing, but when things slow down everything falls under greater scrutiny, and that’s when people lose jobs and brands lose contracts.   Read more »

Important Updates to TripAdvisor’s Popularity Ranking Algorithm

TripAdvisor Popularity Ranking Algorithm Update - Reknown Travel MarketingBy Daniel E. Craig, Reknown

During my seminars in online reputation management to hospitality and travel businesses, participants often express frustration to me that their business is being outranked on TripAdvisor by a newly-opened business that raced to the top soon after opening its doors.

I’ve seen this time and again. Veteran, tried-and-true businesses that have worked hard to climb the ranks suddenly find themselves unseated by a newcomer that has shiny new facilities and services but has yet to prove itself over the long term.

In some cases, hotels that have earned thousands of 4- and 5-bubble reviews over numerous years have been unseated by a new hotel with only a handful of reviews.

Often the change is only temporary, but it makes business managers wonder exactly what ingredients go into TripAdvisor’s powerful and mysterious Popularity Ranking.

This week, TripAdvisor provided some clarity to the Popularity Ranking and announced changes to the algorithm that should put an end to the problem of “fast risers.” The changes are intended to ensure that new properties settle in to a stable, accurate ranking more quickly.

“We designed the enhanced Popularity Ranking algorithm to value the quantity and consistency of reviews more significantly than we have in the past,” TripAdvisor states. “Doing so helps stabilize the ranking for all businesses, reduces fast-riser behavior and creates a more accurate overall ranking for our travelers.”

The enhanced algorithm was rolled out for restaurants and attractions in January and for hotels between February and April of this year. If you noticed unusual shifts in rankings during this period, this could be why.

TripAdvisor also clarified several key areas related to the Popularity Ranking:  Read more »