Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Trip advisor....friend or foe?

There are so many articles, new reports and bad press surrounding Trip Advisor these days. Yet up until 9 months ago a lot of people wouldn’t ever have considered staying at a hotel before reading reviews left on the infamous site. You might find 30 or even 500 reviews left over a period of a couple of years and more. All a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. Still I can quite confidently say that those hotels would have seen many more guests passing through their doors, sleeping in their beds and enjoying their breakfasts and dinners who did not leave a review and had a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

A few months ago hoteliers finally found their voice and have brought and continue to bring to the public and presses attention that actually Trip Advisor has no way of verifying that those people leaving reviews have ever stayed in the hotel they are commenting on at all. In fact the chances are that a good handful have had a disappointing stay, the other handful are competitors who want to do damage to their rivals or just simply vindictive people posting a negative comment purely for their own satisfaction (a disgruntled member of staff perhaps). Needless to say some of the positive reviews may well have been posted by staff members, family members or friends, however the majority will probably be good honest reviews.

The point is people are finally starting to see it for what it is and what hoteliers have always known it to be but have muddled through because nobody seemed to be able to shout loudly enough about it...until recently.

Companies such as Booking.com and Laterooms.com have however got it right. They can and do have the ability to post reviews, as you can only do so if you have stayed in that hotel and booked your stay via the aforementioned websites, this is the proof the stay actually took place and means the reviews are from true customers.
A couple of months ago is was announced that the ASA had launched a formal investigation into TripAdvisor after receiving a complaint from a company called KwickChex.com. A Bournemouth based company that helps others manage their online reputations. They have been pursuing TripAdvisor since last year over what it claims are numerous misleading, fake and defamatory reviews posted about restaurants, hotels and bed & breakfasts. With the likes of Dragons Den entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne backing the campaign, this is certainly one investigation to keep your eye on!

I think the point I want to make is this. Trip Advisor, love it or hate it has been part of the holiday makers booking process for many years, and yet should never be taken too seriously. We as a nation much prefer to grumble and moan after the occurrence than speak up at the time, this bad feeling then festers and those who don't perhaps want a resolution will complain to Trip Advisor and such like. Those who are serious will contact the hotel and voice their concerns at the time or write a letter once back at home, giving the hotel a serious chance to rectify any fault or make amends, hopefully to the customers satisfaction.
A warning to those who read reviews, remember if the site can not guarantee these reviews are genuine, don't let it effect your own judgement too much.

I hope Trip Advisor can find away of verifying that past and new reviews are genuine. I also hope that since reading this and hearing about it in the press, those of you who have shunned hotels in the past due to a bad Trip Advisor review might reconsider visiting them. We don't bite. We are open to the public. We are here to serve you. Pop in and see us, ask for a look around, and make up your own mind.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Get to the church on time!

So, he finally popped the question then?! Congratulations!! (That is if you said yes!)

Now this is where the fun and games start. Telling your families & telling your friends. Deciding on “Do we have an engagement party or don't we?”

Then it's a case of going out, buying all the wedding magazines you can lay your hands on and watching the colour drain from your husband to be's face as he realises the Bridezilla he has brought out in you and sticks a padlock on his wallet!

It's all fun and games, but where do you actually start??

Our advice....Fix a budget. This is key. If you are lucky enough to have parents who are able to help with costs, it's best to establish how much they are looking at putting your way. This means there are no crossed wires and will allow you to have a good idea of what you can afford.

Budget decided then, is it a church wedding or a civil ceremony?

Do you want a professional photographer?

Do you want a cake from a professional company or is dear Aunt Mabel making it for you?

Stationary, do you do it yourself or are you ordering it from a professional company? (If you are lucky enough to be crafty it can save you some money but me, well I'd glue my foot to my head!)

Venue....big, small, traditional, contemporary, castle, marquee, barn or a hotel?? Bare in mind that sometimes booking at certain venues can bring the additional work of planning all the extras such as caterers, tables, crockery, linen, glassware, drinks supplier etc. Hotels and some other venues on the other hand can arrange all this for you and it should be included in the price. The easiest way to be sure however is ask these questions when viewing the places you are considering.

All of the above are key questions to ask, make a decision on and book before your date and preferred choice is snapped up by someone else.

Next then is to ask are you having a theme? Are you building your day around your favourite colours, flowers, a TV Show, countries you've visited, seaside towns, a hobby, cars, knots, the list of suggestions goes on. If you are I suggest you make the decision early and stick to it. Sometimes it's easy to get over excited, go over the top and end up with 3 different themes that don't quite gel, so pick out your favourites and then pick out the best. Less is more remember!

Guest list....Are you both on the same page? When your husband to be suggests a small wedding is he thinking 10 people when you think small is 30 or vice versa.

Children, another potentially tricky subject. Do you allow children or not. If not, are they band from the entire day or perhaps just the service and meal. Think of who on your list this will affect and bare in mind that this could ultimately end up with them not being able to come at all. You might consider arranging for a mobile crèche to attend so your nearest and dearest can be there on the day. You might choose to leave it to the individuals to arrange themselves, but it is something that can cause some issues and you need to be aware of them.

Food! Catering for any amount of people can be a challenge. You can't please everyone, but you can please most. Offering a vegetarian option is a must and asking for dietary requirements when guests RSVP is crucial to make sure there are no surprises on the day. If you are worried about picking a fixed menu, ask the caterers or venue if you can offer your guests a choice of two main courses and pre order in advance. This might help if you know you have an amount of fussy eaters as it means they can choose what they want. Just be organised if this is the road you take and on the place cards for the tables write the persons menu choice on the back or inside, this will avoid confusion as they never remember what they ordered and ultimately will help with service on the day.
You might depending on the caterers be able to offer a served buffet instead. This will create a more informal atmosphere and will mean there should be a good selection of food so guests can just help themselves to what they fancy. Whatever happens be sure that there will be lots of options where food is concerned so if you are unsure trust that your caterer will have had lots of experience and should be able to help you with your decisions.

Table plan....Now hoping there hasn't been a family feud since you got engaged, this is relatively easy to do too. Make sure you mix the families together, try not to sit any lone guests on a table where they don't know anyone and make sure there is a good ratio of quiet people to chatty people on the tables. As for the top table, tradition says it has to be long with parents, maid of honour and best man, but if your not traditional that doesn't matter, do it your way!

Music, now here's another one to be seriously considered. If you are having an evening reception and want to include some music and dancing, then find the right band or DJ for you. Venues will have their own recommendations, these are worth considering as they will work with them all the time. Ask to see any testimonials and meet with them, perhaps go down and watch them perform. A nice touch is to ask your guests what songs they might like the DJ to play, or indeed the band (if they are good enough)

There are plenty of extras you can consider having during your big day. Some examples are chocolate fountains, champagne fountains, ice sculptures, photo booths, casino tables, candy floss stands, pick'n'mix tables, video booths, wii entertainers, the list goes on. Things like this add some excitement to the day and evening but can be costly so again, keep on top of your budget.

There is still a lot more of course that needs to be considered, such as the drinks you serve, the transport, the flowers, favours, the weather, parking, accommodation etc. but if you manage to find a venue with a wedding coordinator, they will be able to help and guide you step by step through the process, and of course those wedding magazines will help!

Be organised with the planning, enjoy the build up and sparkle on the day! Just get to the Church on time!!