Duncan Bannatyne's robust response to a negative review regarding one of his hotels posted on TripAdvisor has received widespread support from the industry.
The owner of four hotels and Dragons' Den star writes in this week's Caterer Viewpoint that he is "well placed to lead the campaign for more protection against the perils of TripAdvisor" following the unfavourable review concerning his four-star, 27-bedroom Charlton House Spa hotel in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.
While Bannatyne said he had no issue with views that give a guest's opinion about a hotel, he claimed TripAdvisor was obstructing his right to reply to factual inaccuracies.
Stephen Fagan, who worked in the UK for Tetley Walker and Whitbread before moving to Spain in 1990, where he and his wife, Lesley, run an apartments-letting business, said he would support a campaign led by Bannatyne.
"The slate is never wiped clean," Fagan said. "Many people look at TripAdvisor before making a booking and the first thing they see is a negative pack of lies that go back five years. No matter that we can respond, the comments are still there."
Phil Graham became so frustrated with TripAdvisor's refusal to enter into dialogue about two "malicious reviews" concerning his three-bedroom bed and breakfast near Alençon, France, that he set up a blog called TripAdvisor Watch (tripadvisorwatch.wordpress.com/).
He said: "Being a small B&B we can easily recognise who has posted reviews and it was clear that these were from people who had never stayed here."
Meanwhile, Louis Naudi, owner of the three-star, 28-bedroom Royal Sportsman hotel in Porthmadog, Gwynedd, said that a campaign by Bannatyne against TripAdvisor's unsatisfactory handling of malicious and inaccurate reviews was not necessarily the most effective means of tackling the problem.
"I would prefer to see Duncan tie up with Chris Emmins at KwikChex, whose organisation for the past few months has been collecting case studies (of which I am one) and other evidence and is preparing to sue TripAdvisor in a mass action," he said.
A TripAdvisor spokeswoman said that every review was screened by its proprietary site tools and a team of dozens of quality assurance specialists investigated suspicious reviews.
"If a property owner has an issue with a traveller review, we provide avenues for them to raise concerns and strongly encourage them to contact our Owners Centre, where issues will be investigated fully," she added.
"Hoteliers also always have the option of posting a management response to any review on their property - good or bad. We are therefore giving the hotelier the opportunity to thank the good and offer their perspective on the bad."
KWIKCHEX ESTIMATES 27,000 DEFAMATORY COMMENTS ON TRIPADVISOR
KwikChex, which announced last year that it was considering a group defamation action against TripAdvisor, is putting the finishing touches this week to an analysis to it and other feedback sites.
"Our provisional estimate is that there are at least 27,000 legally defamatory comments on TripAdvisor - that is, allegations that are false and should, if necessary, be tested in court," said Chris Emmins, co-founder of KwikChex. Other findings show that there are several million reviews that are more than 18 months old, which could affect ratings and distort the current picture for consumers, as well as there being extreme disparities between ratings for businesses on the unverified postings on TripAdvisor and the ratings of proven customers on sites such as Bookings.com.
"Online feedback is a superb consumer resource," said Emmins. "However, our research is clearly highlighting the abuses taking place and the lack of due care. Much of this can in reality be easily be controlled and quality can also be enhanced, but the initial conclusion is that quantity and self-protection (ie, citing laws that stop prosecution of the sites themselves in many cases) appear to be the key focus.
"We are happy to provide all the evidence to TripAdvisor to enable them to investigate and then comply with their own guidelines."
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By Janet Harmer
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