Having just returned from a family trip to Europe, I've come to value even more sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp that let users rate and review restaurants, tour guides, and more. Sites like these were particularly helpful in Europe where there seems to be two kinds of customer in every town: The locals who know everyone and the tourists who know no one. We fell into the latter group, so finding good restaurants and attractions required good recommendations and referrals.
For the tourism industry, services such as TripAdvisor are vitally important for the people traveling to destination sites as they provide a ton of information that is usually more up-to-date then any travel book. In our case, we used the site to find good restaurants and travel guides for a few of our adventures. The couple of times we didn't use the site resulted in poor experiences. A previously recommended restaurant had changed ownership and the experience was not nearly as good as promised. And, we didn't read the reviews about one of our travel guides and he turned out to be a dud. Live and learn.
What does this mean for business owners coveting travelers? While in this particular instance, TripAdvisor was my family's site of choice for recommendations during our trip, business owners should check in on all the popular review and ratings sites to ensure that their company's basic information (address, phone number, Web site listing) is correct. As for the reviews, the key to getting positive write-ups and high ratings falls on a principle that dates back to well before the Internet or even electricity: Provide great customer service.
To get good reviews, you have to provide a good product and service. In this day and age of instant sharing through social media, geolocation sites, and countless ratings, bad news can spread fast. Focus on providing a great experience for every customer who walks through the door. It sounds simple enough and on the surface it can be. It just takes focus and hard work (like anything in life).
Business owners can also remind customers (particularly the happy ones) to leave a review or rating on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other travel-related sites as they leave. Yelp even gives away stickers that businesses can put on their door or window to remind customers to provide a review.
As you head out to an unfamiliar location for your summer vacation, make sure to use TripAdvisor and Yelp to ensure your family time is spent having fun and enjoying great food.