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Rooting for Bangkok

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Why is Bangkok the most visited city in Asia? TripAdvisor executive Aaron Hung tells us how the award is decided

By Laurence Civil


When we heard that TripAdvisor recognized Bangkok as the most visited city in Asia, we wanted to know how the award was decided. We met Aaron Hung, their director of partnerships to discover more. “The result was based on the overall feedback we have received, which are then fed through an algorithm to give us on overall consensus of the city,” he said.

“In Bangkok we are currently listing reviews of 729 hotels, 395 bed & breakfast and inns, 7,323 restaurants — that number is growing every month — and 657 things to do. All of these reviews show what people like about the city. Another factor we take into consideration is the way in which they search, what is it that they are actually looking for. In the case of Bangkok it was genuine hospitality, a smile that comes from the heart, the amazing diversity of food that’s being served, a shoppers’ paradise and value for money.
“We are aware that our open posting policy is at risk of being abused, but nevertheless, it’s the only way for fellow travelers to share their experience both good and bad with other fellow travelers.

TripAdvisor_Aaron Hung_27Oct“Our research show us that 98 percent find reviews consistent, 53- 55 percent won’t make a reservation without checking where they are thinking of staying or visiting without checking reviews posted with us.
“To protect the integrity of the system we do have multiple layers of checks and balances to ensure authenticity. That starts with our content integrity team of 100 agents that don’t just check individual reviews but also the pattern in which reviews are being posted.
“If we discover a pattern that varies from the norm these reviews are flagged for further checking. The final step in the security of integrity process is that the owner of the establishment has the right of reply if they feel what was said was not justifiable.
“It’s a massive task, but one we feel is justified to be able to provide the service we are striving for. We are averaging 200 million visitors a month to our 30 different websites in different countries and in 21 different languages. That makes us truly global. We have seen a 15- 20 percent growth in traffic in the past year, from Asia Pacific, Latin America, and China in particular.”

In just 13 years, TripAdvisor had become a key player in the travel decision-making process. Not just with individual travelers but also online booking agencies who often quote a comment made on trip advisor when presenting a travel experience to an enquiring potential customer. It’s even being used by airlines that have a hotel reservations service.
“You may have seen various establishments displaying a TripAdvisor “Certificate of Excellence” and is curious as to the criteria of how they are awarded,” says Aaron. “There is no advertising influence, it’s simply our way of providing recognition to top performing establishment based on the feedback we receive from their customers.
“It is given when they have received a consistent level of rating over the last year. Our aim is that fellow travelers gain by sharing experience with each other.
“We then provide the successful establishments with the tools to use the award in their marketing activity, which hopefully will bring them more business.
“It’s not just the international travelers who use our service, recently TripAdvisor barometer identified that 68 percent of Thai travelers use travel review websites when making travel plans.”