Should you trust Hospitality Awards and TOP Lists for Hotels and Resorts?

The influence of hospitality awardsLast week was a great week for us.   Many of our Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica won prestigious awards or made important TOP lists from Conde Nast Traveler (Grano de Oro, Finca Rosa Blanca, Arenas del Mar and Lapa Rios), Travel & Leisure (Arenas del Mar) and Tripadvisor (Kura).   The owners of the different hotels were very proud and asked us to post those awards to the website and the managers shared the great news with the teams at the hotels.

The questions that we ask ourselves are the following:   Do those awards translate into increased reservations?   Do they play an important role in the decision making process of our guests?   Should we apply for more awards and make sure we continuously win awards?

The answers are not easy to come by and possibly some academic research would be helpful.   We might have to reach out to some of our friends at the Hotel School at Cornell University.   Judging from our Google analytics account information, only the Tripadvisor Award for Kura Design Villas had a real measurable impact.   The others have not had much of an influence on website visits and first contact forms.   But possibly, it has a more long term impact.   So what is it that we should look for when receiving awards?   Here a list of things we learned.

  • The big name awards have an impact on credibility.   If a hotel, resort or lodge has won an international award or was featured on a list by Conde’Nast Traveler, Forbes , Travel & Leisure or National Geographic or a similar world class brand, it is very likely that it will have a positive influence in the decision making process of a potential guest.   Arenas del Mar Beachfront and Rainforest Resort   and Grano de Oro have been featured on Expedia, Tripadvisor, Conde’ Nast and Travel & Leisure TOP lists (among others) consistently this year.   It is important to have a mention of this on the hotel’s website.
  • If you win a category, it is a really big deal.   Everybody remembers the winners.   Even second or third place are still good (just like at the Olympics), but from there on downwards, the value is really not that great.   A hotel that has done extremely well is the Nayara Resort in Arenal.   This is not a part of the Cayuga Collection, but we certainly admire the great work the owners and management do at that hotel (and it is backed up by top positions).
  • A link to the hotel’s website makes a huge impact.   If a magazine or organization publishes a list of awards a recognition, it is crucial to have a link to the hotel’s website.   Many organizations such as Conde’ Nast and Travel & Leisure do not provide those links and that is why sometimes it is so hard to measure the impact.   The award that Kura Design Villas won from Tripadvisor created a huge peak in web visits due to the link provided to the hotel’s website.
  • One time shots are good, but to add real credibility to a brand, it is important to win awards and be on lists over an extended period of time.   Lapa Rios Eco Lodge on the Osa Peninsula is a good example of a small luxury eco resort that has received at least one award or has been consistently in the top 10 lists for over 15 years now.
  • The more sophisticated traveler will not let him or herself be led or misled by awards only.   They are one thing to look for.   Word of mouth through social media or general media exposure (magazines, newspapers, TV,) play an important role as well.   Many newer hotels are not featured in TOP lists, but provide great experiences.   Operations like our Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Nicaragua also typically don’t make TOP lists because of their relatively small size and remote location in emerging destinations like Nicaragua unless it is more specific such as the top Eco Lodges Award that we have received recently by National Geographic.

One word of caution!   Several times per month, we receive an invitation that we have been nominated for a prestigious boutique hotel award, eco awards or the ” Oscar’s of the Hospitality Industry” award.   What an honor”¦ until you read that to enter the award selection process, it is necessary to pay between $5,000 and 10,000 per hotel and that a trip to the Award Ceremony in Dubai or London would cost another few thousand dollars”¦   We found that these awards might work in a mass market, but not with the sophisticated traveller that is visiting hotels like the ones that are part of the Cayuga Collection.   We like the concept of Conde’ Nast of Truth in Travel.   We know there has been changes at the magazine and we hope this is not one of them. They don’t accept for their journalists to be hosted for free by the hotels. That makes a big difference.

So the conclusion is awards can provide recognition and credibility but guests experiences are still what count. .   I would love to hear your feedback on this.   What do you think of hospitality awards and TOP lists?   What has been your experience?

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