Turn a Negative Into a Positive: 3 Tips for Dealing With Bad Hotel Reviews

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Your day was going great.

That new hotel management software you just installed has been helping you run the place beautifully.

Last night, you had your highest number of bookings so far this year, and every guest walked out the this morning with a smile on their face. Many of them even shook your hand. “Can’t wait to come back; haven’t slept that well in ages,” one man told you.

That made your day, and it reminded you why you got into this business in the first place.

And then—Steve and Edna stumble in.

You can tell they’re trouble right away. As soon as the sliding doors part, the sound of their bickering cuts through the peaceful lobby and right to your front desk.

Your front desk receptionist, Sarah, greets them with a bright smile. It does nothing.

“We need a room!” Edna says, irritation filling her voice.

“Certainly. Do you have a reservation?” the receptionist says breezily, still smiling.

“No. We’re supposed to be at a hotel 100 miles from here, but we’re tired of driving,” Steve chimes in, sounding flustered.

“That’s all right. It looks like we’re out of doubles, but we have one king available. Will that be OK?”

“No! Just give us a double,” Edna shoots back.

“Unfortunately, as I said, we are out of rooms with double beds.”

“You always keep extra rooms in case the president comes to town! I know the law. Give us that one.”

You decide to step in.

“I’m afraid Sarah’s right, our double beds are fully booked this evening. I do apologize. I’d be happy to give you 20% off, however.”

Edna grumbles, then spits out: “Fine!”

It doesn’t get any better from there. Edna orders room service, then demands a refund for cold food even though she cleaned her plate. Steve calls the front desk at 8 p.m. to report that people are going in and out of their hotel rooms while he’s trying to sleep. Edna calls housekeeping the next morning to report that there aren’t any bottles of shampoo or soap in the shower; the housekeeper later remarks to you that she saw a few bottles peeking out of Edna’s purse on the bed as she walked by.

You know what’s coming: a one-star review, and a dent—albeit a small one—in your rock-solid average score.

That’s a problem. Right? After all, 80% of travelers read six to 12 reviews before booking a hotel. After price, it’s arguably the most important thing guests consider before they book a room.

So what can you do now? Well, it’s tricky. But consider these three tips before taking action.

1. You might not even need to respond

It’s natural to feel like you have to set the record straight whenever someone trashes your hotel, especially when the comments are totally baseless or heavily exaggerated.

But it’s not always necessary. And if you’re not careful, a response can actually hurt you.

TripAdvisor found that 66% of travelers ignore extreme comments when reading reviews, so if you’ve got a solid rating, it might not be worth your time to deal with the occasional bad review.

People researching your hotel generally understand that some people are just bad customers or that misunderstandings happen. If they see that the overwhelming majority of reviews are positive, they’ll probably ignore the few negative reviews. After all, almost nobody has a perfect score.

What’s more, if you get too testy in a reply, that can hurt you. TripAdvisor also found that 70% of travelers were less likely to book at a hotel with aggressive, defensive responses to bad reviews.

2. How you respond matters … a lot

The right response to a review makes all the difference.

TripAdvisor found that 80% of users believe that a hotel that responds to reviews cares about its guests, and 60% would rather book at a hotel that responds to reviews.

So the good news is, this means prospective guests are giving you a chance to deal with a bad review, and they’re curious how you’ll handle it. That means negative reviewers are unwittingly giving you an opportunity to increase your bookings.

  • The first thing to do is thank the guest by name, even if the review is mean-spirited. Remember, it’s not about proving the guest wrong—it’s about making an impression on future guests who are reading the review.
  • Then you need to apologize sincerely, even if you don’t think you’re in the wrong. Taking full responsibility for the comfort and happiness of your guests, even when they make life difficult for you, makes readers say, “Wow, if they bend over backwards for this jerk, imagine how they’ll treat me.”
  • Once you’ve set the stage, describe in detail how you plan to fix things. If your guest reported an inedible steak, offer to comp the meal. If they complained about a leaky faucet that kept them up all night, thank them for alerting you to the issue, let them know maintenance has fixed it, and that you’ve personally checked every single sink in the hotel to make sure it’s not systemic. If a guest reports stained linens, reply that you’ve had them disposed of—as well as any others that didn’t meet quality standards—and replaced them with new sheets.

Once you’ve handled the situation with grace and professionalism, don’t forget to add a little note to the end of your reply inviting them back to give you another chance.

3. Report reviews only as a last resort

As mentioned above, even negative reviews can have a positive impact on your hotel—if they’re handled right.

If you jump straight to reporting it, you’re signaling to that guest that you believe in retaliation rather than rectifying bad situations. This could lead to further bad publicity if you’re outed for reporting negative reviews unfairly.

So, when does it make sense to report a review? The reality is, except in extreme cases, most review sites won’t remove a review. But you might qualify in exceptional cases.

  • For example, if you recently renovated your hotel, TripAdvisor might be willing to delete old reviews to give you a fresh start. Although, you’ll need proof of major changes—more than just a new coat of paint.
  • Another way to get a review removed is if it violates site guidelines. Most review sites require that reviews be written by actual travelers, that they be noncommercial, original, and family-friendly. Familiarize yourself with the site’s review policies to determine if any of the guidelines apply for removal.
  • A third way to have a review removed is if you’ve essentially been blackmailed. For example, a guest demands a free upgrade, or they’ll leave a bad review. Once you get the threat, report it to review sites and stay one step ahead of the guest. Keep careful notes or emails that can prove your case.

How do you deal with the haters?

Dealing with a negative review isn’t easy. You’ve got to keep your emotions in check and craft a careful response. Have you dealt with a bad review in a unique way that had surprising results? Do you have any tried-and-true methods you rely on to handle finicky guests? Please, let us know in the comments below!

Looking for Hospitality Property Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Hospitality Property Management software solutions.

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About the Author


Dan Taylor

Dan is a content writer at Capterra, specializing in hotel management, construction and real estate. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, catching up with the latest offering from HBO or paying a visit to a new place.



Hi. You have got Fantastic storytelling art. Really loved the flow of the blog. I do keep a check on each and every review i receive and respond them properly. Yes, sometimes we get bad reviews when we fail to meet guest expectations. Responding to review is very important in hospitality industry.
A year ago, a guy was making a room inquiry over the phone and had some doubts. Then he sighted that a particular xyz website has a bad review about us on a certain issues. I was totally aware about that site and the review but i was able to explain him the things and we got his bookings. We made sure he had a wonderful experience. But what i learned from this is that there are so many review sites which we need to check. Once a week i search about my hotel as a guest might, to see if my hotel reputation is upto the mark and there is no new review site or a bad blog post about us. If any, we do respond and take the needful action.
Currently, I’m using eZee iFeedback that helps me in managing reviews from popular sources.


Every hotel needs to have a guest upgrade opportunity at an additional cost over the standard hotel rooms offered. These rooms should offer guests amenities that the guest will without doubt feel they have received a good deal. That cannot mean upgrading to a suite or a room away from the elevator. It must have some true benefit of the upgrade cost. Now, you have something to offer, and more important you have something to give that will be appreciated. You also have created an excuse for the complainer as they should have chosen the upgrade, but didn’t.

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