Sandemans Tours has partnered with TripAdmit to integrate its digital tipping and reviews platform, TipDirect, with its network of guides in more than 30 cities across Europe, North America, and the Middle East.
The service offers a cashless and contactless tipping solution, allowing guests to pay directly via their smartphones to tour guides. Chris Sandeman, managing director of Sandemans Tours, emphasized the importance of easy and secure digital tipping for their guides who work on a tips-only basis.
Additionally, TipDirect uses generative AI to help travelers create personalized reviews with keyword-rich text for platforms like Google and TripAdvisor.
Dublin-based TripAdmit, a technology company that enables the online selling of tour and activity providers, said the partnership speaks to a “growing trend towards a cashless society.” The company’s recent high-season booking data also showed that travelers continue to look for “affordable and spontaneous experiences” with short booking timeframes.
TripAdmit ticketing customers had seen an average increase of 25% in tour sales during this year’s high season compared to 2022. Activities priced under $55 (under 50 euros) also had a high lead time of under one week, with over 90% of bookings made within this timeframe.
Travelers are only modestly more dissatisfied with hotel stays on average worldwide than before the pandemic, according to a review of 6 million user-generated reviews and 20 million online comments. But North America stood out as a region where many guests felt hotels were underperforming compared to 2019.
In 2022, the global review index — a measure of guest satisfaction — was 84.3 percent, 1.7 points lower than in 2019, according to Shiji ReviewPro. Decreases were most pronounced among 3-star hotels, which lost 2.0 points from 2019 to 2022.
To make the sample statistically relevant, the report looked at comparable numbers of hotels in five regions that are representative of each region’s makeup by category type.
North America saw the biggest decline in guest satisfaction of the five regions. In 2022, the Global Review Index for hotels in the Shiji ReviewPro data set was 83.3 percent, a drop of 3.5 points from 2019. Three-star hotels showed the steepest decline, losing four points. The results dovetailed with research last year from J.D. Power.
Booking.com accounted for an incredible 41.8 percent of global review volume in 2022, an increase of 12.9 points over 2019. Concerning the 66 review sites and online travel agencies in 45 languages included in the study, there has been no exclusion or bias: all reviews, regardless of platform, are included for each of the hotels the company analyzed, Shiji ReviewPro said.
Shiji ReviewPro is one of the three largest vendors helping hotels and the industry manage and understand user-generated reviews, customer feedback, and guest sentiment. Competitors include Revinate and TrustYou.
Google made changes to Google Flights and Hotels related to transparency in hotel reviews and pricing under pressure from the European Commission — but stopped short of making those modifications elsewhere in the world.
At the behest of the European Commission, Google added text in hotel reviews in European Union countries, noting “Reviews aren’t verified.”
Unlike online travel agencies, Google doesn’t take bookings so it would be hard-pressed to verify user reviews. Tripadvisor, likewise, doesn’t verify hotel reviews for the same reason.
Clicking further into Google’s explanatory language about user reviews in Europe, Google states that it accepts reviews from signed-in users — there’s no requirement that they ever stayed at that particular hotel — and licenses reviews from third-parties. “Google doesn’t do any additional filtering for spam or inappropriate language beyond that done by the provider, nor do we verify these reviews,” Google states.
The European Commission stated that Google accepted this disclosure about hotel reviews and additional transparency commitments that other hotel-booking platforms such as Expedia Group and Booking.com agreed to on pricing and availability.
“The commitments made by Google are a step forward in this direction. We call on Google to comply fully with the Geo-blocking Regulation, ensuring that consumers can enjoy the same rights and access the same content, wherever they are in the EU,” European Commission Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in the announcement statement.
Google agreed to these changes about user reviews, consented to disclose that Google Flights and Google Hotels is merely a middleman, and agreed to provide greater clarity when presenting discounted pricing, explaining that such deals are merely a reference point. But Google decided to make these changes in Europe only — and not in other geographies around the world where regulators were not providing heat.
“As part of our ongoing dialogue with the European Commission and the EU’s Consumer Protection Cooperation Network, we have made changes to our products that provide a clear benefit and protect consumers,” a Google spokesperson stated. “We appreciate the partnership on this topic and are open to constructive dialogue with all consumer associations and regulators.”
Google’s hotel reviews in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world have no added language explaining the reviews are not verified. So travelers might erroneously believe that everyone writing reviews about these hotels actually stayed a night or two there.
Google frequently talks about helping travelers and other consumers to discover information as being one of its top priorities. However, the search engine giant, perhaps in the interests of providing a cleaner user interface that wouldn’t get in the way of users clicking on hotel ads, sacrificed transparency for expediency in the rest of the world.
Google is not alone in doing what regulators demand in one geography, but not expanding it to other regions for the good of consumers. For example, for several years Airbnb has shown the total price of stays, including taxes, up-front in the European Union at the urging of the European Commission. However, it was only this year that Airbnb became displaying the total rate, albeit without taxes included, instead of just the nightly rate without fees at first glance, in other geographies.
The companies didn’t disclose the terms of the deal but Ho said it would “bring more firepower.”
Map Happy has offered travelers advice on all aspects of traveling. While primarily supported by ads and affiliate links, it has had an independent editorial streak, such as its 2017 review of why an Away suitcase disappointed a reviewer.
While the U.S.-based company has mostly been a sole proprietorship, it has stood out for being owned and led by a woman in a media market still too often dominated by male voices. Independent product reviews along the lines of a Wirecutter for travel remains in short supply, too, and Ho made sure that reviews have tended focus on questions such as “Is this useful to me when I plan my travels? Can I use this in every market I go to? Are there lots of markets covered?”