Monday, February 7, 2011

TripAdvisor Versus True Advisors by Sara Macefield

Whenever I’ve flicked through the hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, I’ve always been puzzled as to how some hotels can attract feedback of such opposing extremes. On the one hand, there will be a glowing report from Mr and Mrs Over-the-Moon about how they’ve had the best stay of their lives; on the other will be a bitter diatribe-like rant from Mr and Mrs Angry that leaves you thinking their lives have been irreversibly blighted by the experience.

How can a single property go from being so wonderful to so terrible?

Having gone on to TripAdvisor and other such sites for guidance, reviews like that leave me more confused than ever and I end up having to go with my gut feeling or better still, turn to a source where the reviews are accredited.

You see, I have a problem with anonymous claims and statements.

As a journalist who is used to putting my name to whatever I write, I have to make damn sure that my facts are correct and my views are genuine and defensible. The shroud of secrecy surrounding the authors of posts on TripAdvsor and other such sites makes me suspicious, especially when I hear of stories where complainants have a grudge to bear or are working to some hidden agenda.

Likewise, I also wonder if syrupy sweet reviews have been posted by the hotelier himself, his friends or even his public relations company.

It doesn’t seem as ridiculous as it sounds as such cases have come to light in the past, and TripAdvisor, for one, promised to step up its monitoring. But is any system foolproof? Allowing people to write whatever they like, without having to face the consequences, sets a dangerous precedent to my mind. Why should they be above putting their name to what they write and why aren’t they made to?

This is the issue that has been taken up Scottish entrepreneur and hotelier Duncan Bannatyne who is leading a campaign again a negative review of one of his hotels on TripAdvisor. His calls for the US-based site to remove fraudulent and defamatory reviews have turned the spotlight on a company, known for attracting the wrath of hundreds of hoteliers for its virtual “anything goes” policy on reviews.

Adam Raphael, editor of the Good Hotel Guide, which tracks its reviews; knows the identity of the authors; and checks up on the comments they make; has branded TripAdvisor as “shameless” for its “feeble” approach over authenticating contributions.

About Definitive Caribbean, Sara says:
As a reader, you may not agree with everything you read on Definitive Caribbean, but at least you know who’s written it, and can contact them if you feel strongly enough.

Such openness brings trustworthiness that those at DefinitiveCaribbean and the Good Hotel Guide strive for and sites such as TripAdvisor can never hope to achieve unless they take radical and badly needed action.
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