Minesh Shah recently joined TripAdvisor in the newly created role of Director of Review Services. In this position, Shah will oversee TripAdvisor for Business’ Review Collection offerings.
Shah joins TripAdvisor with strong travel and strategic management experience. We recently took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his background as well as his plans and vision for this new role.
T4B: Minesh, can you give us a brief overview of your background?
Prior to joining TripAdvisor, I held two strategic management positions with Travelport, focusing on market strategy, planning, and partner negotiations. In a previous role, I worked as a Consultant with Monitor, helping clients develop turnaround and marketing strategies.
On a personal note, I’ve been involved with the travel industry since childhood – my mother runs a hotel and my father owns a travel agency. I’ve always loved London and stayed here after I received my MBA from London Business School. I’m currently based in TripAdvisor’s London office.
T4B: Why did you decide to join the TripAdvisor for Business team?
I liked the entrepreneurial feel of the team – it has the energy of a startup but the resources of a large, growing organization. I was also intrigued by the opportunity to leverage the company’s best-in-class technology to grow the review collection offering in a way that can benefit hoteliers.
T4B: Is this a newly created position at TripAdvisor? Why is there increased focus on the review collection area?
My role was created as a new position to enhance the value of our review services for hotels. My goal is to help property managers collect more reviews, build stronger engagement with their guests and increase their conversion rates based on that review content.
T4B: How important do you think reviews really are to travelers in the decision making process?
Reviews are extremely important to travelers. There’s a plethora of choices out there today – especially when you’re talking about hotels, restaurants and attractions. To make the best choice, guests rely on information from other consumers. Reviews help potential guests see what other travelers have directly experienced. That’s powerful and the influence of reviews on the decision is extremely strong.
There’s a natural synergy with helping our partners collect reviews. The additional reviews enhance the property’s presence on TripAdvisor and allow hotels to include consumer feedback on their own sites, which can ultimately help with conversion. Measuring guest satisfaction is also a natural extension of TripAdvisor’s business – reviews allow hotels to monitor and assess their reputations and globally improve relationships with customers.
T4B: Will you be primarily focused on larger properties and chains, or is there a place for TripAdvisor’s review collection tools and platforms with smaller and independent properties, also?
I will be focused on hotels of all sizes (B&B’s, independent hotels, larger multi-chains, etc.). For smaller and independent properties we’re working on a variety of review collection tools. Some of them, like those available at tripadvisor.com/widgets, are already available. For larger multi-chains, there’s an opportunity to take a more integrated approach with their complex systems. I also believe we have a lot to offer to the Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) as well.
T4B: In the few months since you started, you’ve been getting the new Review Express product off the ground. Can you tell me about that and what it offers to properties?
Review Express is an exciting opportunity for properties to use TripAdvisor’s email functionality to contact past guests and remind them to write reviews. Because the emails are so easy to send, owners from properties of all sizes can easily reach out to their customers and regularly request reviews. I think this tool will be especially great for the smaller independent hotels and B&B’s because it’s free and efficient to use.
T4B: Can you tell me about a brand that is doing something interesting or innovative with reviews that you admire?
Actually – what Wyndham is doing with their “Guest Satisfaction Surveys” is extremely fascinating to me. They’ve recognized that satisfaction surveys and reviews have a natural connection – both provide valuable complementary sets of data. It’s helping their hotels meet customer expectations at a global level.
T4B: How do reviews play a part in your purchase decisions? Not just for travel, but for any major item you’re considering. Can you give us a few examples of review sites you like and why?
Reviews usually play a strong role in my purchase decisions. I tend to start with expert reviews to develop a subset of choices and then check consumer reviews – for opinions of people like me – for help with my final choice.
As an example, I was recently in the market for a new stereo. I knew roughly what I wanted, but didn’t have any specific products in mind. I started by checking expert opinions on sites like whathifi.com. Then, I went to Amazon.com to review what users like me had to say. I used a combination of both review types to make my final decision.
T4B: Along the same lines, can you describe a situation where user generated content really impacted a hotel you chose, or a similarly important decision?
Two years ago, I planned a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand. As I was researching, I used TripAdvisor to narrow down the list of hotels in the area that seemed to meet my needs. Then I went to the hotel web sites to get a better read on rooms, amenities, etc. In the end, TripAdvisor helped me pick a great property and we had an amazing trip.
T4B: What are your thoughts on how the travel industry has changed and where it’s going?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked with OTA’s, large multi-chains, and hotels of all sizes. The travel industry has evolved significantly over the past 10 years — consumers have more choice than ever before. Technology advancements – destination marketing sites, better hotels websites, etc. – provide more resources for travelers to make decisions, but there is so much information that the consumer can become overwhelmed. That’s why I think TripAdvisor and other review sites are so important – they help narrow down the choices and give consumers relevant solutions.
Moving forward, I think the industry will work to provide consumers with more relevant choices for them. This could potentially include non-traditional sources of inventory that will provide travelers with unique experiences. Relevancy will be even more critical in the future.
T4B: On a lighter note, please tell us more about your travel adventures. How many countries have you visited – any favorite trips?
Growing up, my family traveled a lot – we always tried to go someplace new on holiday. As a result, I’ve visited over 50 countries. My favorite trip was when I was nine – we went to Egypt. We were able to walk into different relics with thousands of years of history behind them. It was an amazing experience for a nine-year-old with an interest in the Egyptian history I’d learned about in school.
T4B: What’s on your wish list for destinations in 2013?
I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights, so I’d like to get to Iceland this year if I can.
T4B: Thanks for your time, Minesh! Any final thoughts?
Thank you! I’m excited about my new role with TripAdvisor and look forward to helping hospitality and travel businesses around the globe.