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Don’t get ‘lost in translation’ with foreign language hotel reviews

How can you respond to an online hotel guest review written in Russian, Portuguese, Chinese or other languages you don’t understand?

If you can’t understand the nature of a guest’s comments, then you wouldn’t be able to respond with a basic “thank you for staying with us” or address their negative experience.

The first – and most important step – is making sure you understand the review. That’s why hoteliers are increasingly relying on ReviewPro’s technology, specifically its translation tool.

“In the past, that (foreign-language) review would never have been even talked about. It would have just been ignored,” Douglas Glen, general manager of The Landmark Bangkok, told me recently. “The translation tool is invaluable.”

Translation is becoming a hot-button issue as hotels welcome an ever-growing number of travelers from countries with emerging economies, particularly Brazil, India, China and Russia, and they don’t necessarily have employees who speak the language. The growing middle class in these countries are using their disposable incomes to explore the globe, check into hotels and – yes – write reviews about their hotel experiences.

How does technology help?

ReviewPro’s technology tracks more than 100 websites and shows guest comments in a single scroll that can be sorted by a number of parameters – including language. Once you have found a review that you can’t understand, you can just click on ‘translate’ to get a real-time translation into English or your own native tongue. ReviewPro covers 48 languages including Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Swedish, Thai, French and Arabic.

The function, hoteliers say, lets them read, discuss and act upon reviews – whether good or poor – that in the past had been overlooked.

At Glen’s luxury hotel in Bangkok, for instance, ReviewPro’s translation functionality lets his team at the Landmark understand reviews written in Japanese. This is key since visitors from Japan make up about 11% of the hotel’s guests, Glen said. The translation feature is becoming even more important as the hotel welcomes a growing number of Chinese travelers – and they write more reviews.

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In Scotland, the three properties run by the family owned Skene House HotelSuites routinely attract guests whose native tongue is not English. After all, Skene House’s serviced accommodations are located in Aberdeen – Europe’s energy capital.

“(Hotel managers) absolutely love clicking that “translate” button to see what people are saying about them in foreign languages,” Rosalind McClure, the company’s digital marketing executive, told me recently. “We want to offer (all customers) what they expect.”

Skene House management relies on ReviewPro’s translation features to understand the needs of guests from Norway and Germany, two of Skene House’s most important markets.

Reading and analyzing reviews written by international guests, for example, prompted Skene House HotelSuites to revamp its breakfast offering. In October, the traditional continental buffet breakfast with cold meats and cheeses was updated to reflect greater variety and fresh local produce. It was more in keeping with international expectations, she said.

Helpful tips for responding to negative reviews in a foreign language:

  • Involve an employee who speaks the reviewer’s language
  • Examine your hotel’s market share and decide to hire an employee who speaks most high-profile languages for your property
  • Contact the person offline and speak privately with them in English, and then respond online in English
  • Hoteliers: Have you ever made changes at your property after reading the translated version of a review written in a foreign language?

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