By Sourish Bhattacharyya
THE Oberoi Group has struck gold in TripAdvisor.com's Travellers' Choice Hotel Awards 2014. In the 11th edition of the consumer review site's annual world awards, The Oberoi Udai Vilas at Udaipur ranked No. 5 in the 'top' hotels list, pole vaulting from No. 22 last year, and The Oberoi Mumbai jumped to No. 9, after being in the double-digit territory at No. 17 in 2013. The two hotels are at No. 15 and No. 22 respectively in the pecking order for the luxury category. The grande dame of Udaipur, Taj Lake Palace, also made it to the top hotels list, but at No. 17.
|The Oberoi Udai Vilas, Udaipur, has climbed from|
No. 22 to No. 5 on the world 'top' hotels list of the
TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards 2014
|Coorg's Orange County makes its world debut|
at No. 15 in the family hotels category
These three hotels bagged five of the eight world awards that went to India -- a record for the country. The other three winners are real undiscovered gems in their categories -- Kaiya House, Varkala (Kerala), among bargain hotels (No. 12, up from 14); Friendly Villa, Jaipur, on the B&Bs and Inns list (No. 20); and the increasingly popular Orange County, Coorg, makes its debut on the list at No. 15 in the family hotels category.
In the age of digital marketing, the value of these awards cannot be understated. A study by Cornell University’s Centre for Hospitality Research notes that increases in a hotel’s user review scores can positively influence the relationship between price increase and demand. Higher review scores, the study says, allow hotels to charge more while maintaining their occupancy rate.
Hotels that are lackadaisical about their social media engagement must rethink their strategy. Here's why they must do so. Friendly Villa's Shweta Mehra reports that her business has seen a 20 per cent year-on-year growth "both in terms of bookings and revenue" in the past three years she has been winning the Travellers' Choice Award in her category. "Had it not been for the award, I wonder if I could have ever achieved so much without very painful and expensive marketing efforts," she says.
Commenting on the awards notched up by establishments in Goa, Nikhil Desai, the state government's Director of Tourism, points to the obvious advantage of this recognition. "I am optimistic that these awards will cement Goa's place as one of the best tourism destinations in the world," he says.
Based entirely on travellers' reviews and ratings posted on the site, the much-anticipated awards have brought plenty of good news for India. Indian hotels and B&Bs have also won 39 Asian awards, second only to Indonesia's 41. India's Asian tally includes a remarkable 12 wins in the B&B and Inns category -- eight of the top 10 establishments in this category, in fact, are from India. As many as 92 countries are covered by the awards, which are given out in seven categories: Top Hotel; Luxury; Bargain (hotels in the lowest 30 price percentile in a particular geography); B&B; Family; Romance; Small. India has notched up 222 awards across the World, Asia and India lists.
In India, the category leaders are: Top and Luxury: The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, for the second time in a row; Romance: Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur; Family: Orange County, Coorg; Small: The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambhore; Bargain: Kaiya House, Varkala, for the third time in a row; B&B and Inns: Friendly Villa, Jaipur.
Rajasthan is the topper in hospitality with hotels from the state garnering an impressive 50 awards across the World, Asia and India lists. The other top performers include Kerala (36), Karnataka (30) and Goa (17). Among metros, Delhi is the leader with seven awards; Bangalore is a close second with six. Binay Bhushan, General Manager, Delhi Tourism & Transport Development Corporation, attributes Delhi's success to the Capital's "245 B&B establishments offering approximately 900 rooms at a reasonable cost to travellers from all over the world, including different parts of the country".
Interestingly, no establishment in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Punjab and the entire north-east have got an award. Is it a reflection of the backwardness of the hospitality sectors of these states, or a commentary on their poor social media engagement?
Is there a message in these awards? TripAdvisor's media release makes a relevant point. "The competition between large hotel chains and standalone properties is heating up with the latter becoming a formidable force," it says. The chains dominate in the Luxury and Top categories, but standalone properties lead in the Family and Small categories. In Romance, the scale is only marginally tipped in favour of the chains, with them clocking 13 ranks out of 25 and the rest being standalone properties.
As Nikhil Ganju, Country Manager, TripAdvisor India, puts it, "The beauty of the awards this year is that standalone and boutique hotels overshadow the large hotel chains.”