Brian Payea does so much traveling for Newton-based TripAdvisor that he needed to add an extra 20 pages to his passport — and he’s only had it for three years. In his industry relations role at the Newton-based travel website, Payea is the company’s globe-hopping ambassador, traveling an estimated 500,000 miles a year as he fosters relations between TripAdvisor and hoteliers and other travel suppliers.
What’s an example of a hotel managing its image on TripAdvisor?
I like to share this story, first told by a former general manager. There was a big construction project in front of his hotel for three years. If he took the traditional tactic, he’d try to minimize the visibility of it online to make sure people still made reservations. But then they’d show up unaware of all the equipment and disruptions, so instead, he communicated the situation and managed expectations. This is an example of going above and beyond to still create a very positive online reputation for the property.
There’s an old maxim in sales and marketing that people are more likely to complain. Is that true for TripAdvisor reviews?
The average rating on TripAdvisor is 4.1 out of 5. One star, or the most negative review, is 6 percent, so most people are actually not complaining. If there are negative reviews, we advise managers to disagree respectfully while showing hospitality in a good light. One of the biggest impacts that hotels can make is to read reviews and reply to them in a substantive way.
How quickly have hotels ramped up their social media IQ?
When I first started doing this in 2006, a lot of properties still didn’t know about TripAdvisor until a guest mentioned it to them. Then they started catching up. Now we’re fairly universally known in the United Kingdom, US, Canada, and Europe — people understand our impact on business.
A lot of hotels are hiring social media managers or a customer-relations team that monitors tweets, etc. What do you think of this trend?
When you know that the majority of customers are getting information through these channels, it only makes sense to make the most of it. Many good organizations realize that customer feedback is so valuable that it’s included throughout the entire culture. There are properties where I’m told that administrators down to the housekeepers read reviews.
Where have you been lately in your travels?
Some of my trips take 4 to 5 weeks. Recent trips include several cities in Australia, on to Singapore, India, London, then the West Coast here.
You’ve traveled all over the world: What’s your favorite destination?
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay — I loved it. After being in the huge city of Buenos Aires, Colonia was a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle. I was struck by how low key and relaxed it all was. While sitting outside, having a beer, a man and woman sat nearby and took out their guitars and played the most amazing music. The stop for a beer turned into a whole afternoon of just sitting there absorbing the atmosphere, enjoying the wonderful music.