Bad trip for hotels after 'discount or web slating' threat
HOTEL and guest house bosses say the world's largest travel website is "open to abuse" from users posting bogus reviews.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered TripAdvisor to remove claims on its site that all reviews were written by "real travellers" last week, as it could not guarantee they were all genuine.
The site, which has five million UK users each month, hosts hundreds of reviews for Thanet hotels, guest houses and restaurants.
Bill Hackney, who runs South Lodge in The Vale, Broadstairs said: "TripAdvisor is a well-known system but it's very easily open to abuse."
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Mr Hackney said the site had few safeguards against unscrupulous hoteliers or bogus guests from uploading reviews.
He said: "Some guest house owners in Broadstairs do take these things very seriously, and get very worried about bad reviews.
"From my point of view, the effect of a bad review is a little bit exaggerated. From my experience, a bad review doesn't have a big impact on business."
Mr Hackney said a guest had tried to hold him to ransom in 2010, threatening a write bad review if he did not receive a discount.
"The man just wanted to reduce his bill," he said.
Michael Clark, who runs Number 68 Bed and Breakfast, in West Cliff Road, Broadstairs said: "I think the site is good – the organisers themselves could perhaps do a little more to ensure that the people doing the reviews have actually stayed in the guesthouses."
Mr Clark said some reviewers "took delight" in finding faults with accommodation. "Sometimes, you can't please all the people," he added.
In a statement released last week, TripAdvisor said it stood by its "independently endorsed review integrity process" and it had already changed the marketing copy on its site.
TripAdvisor, which started in 2000, branded the ASA's decision as "out of touch" with people who use review sites.
The firm's statement said: "We have confidence that the 50 million users who come to our site every month trust the reviews they read on TripAdvisor, which is why they keep coming back to us in increasingly larger numbers to plan and have the perfect trip."
TripAdvisor said the average traveller read dozens of reviews – not just one or two – before deciding where to stay or eat.