It's high time TripAdvisor listened to those who provide its income and asked reviewers to prove their identity, says Pride of Britain chief executive Peter Hancock
It has been my experience that whenever a large number of hoteliers are gathered in one place, something emerges as a common cause of concern. The recent Independent Hotel Show at Olympia was no exception and I witnessed at first hand some pretty hostile questions fired at a spokesman for our old friend, TripAdvisor, at one of the many interesting business sessions there.
In any other line of business this would be called blackmail and could lead to criminal charges against the individual. Of course, a hotel can quickly post a management response which, TripAdvisor assures us, gives hoteliers the last word.
But have you read some of these? In seeking to be courteous and to avoid calling the â¨guest a liar, management responses often say things like "we were surprised by your comments" or "we were disappointed to read…" which come across as feeble apologies when presumably the hotelier would like to have said "what do you expect for £105 you miserable fathead?"
Clearly much of the criticism aimed at badly run hotels is fully deserved, but we all know that a minority of reviewers, while able to operate anonymously, can do untold harm to a hotel's reputation.
Let's remember that the travelling public pay nothing to read or post reviews. All of TripAdvisor's income is derived from hotels, whether directly or via the third party booking agencies. In the past 12 months the company has earned $700m from the hotel trade worldwide and is currently valued at $4.26b. Despite this, the anonymous reviewer appears to be treated as a valued customer while the actual paymasters, hotel owners, are treated with the degree of suspicion we sometimes reserve for second-hand car dealers. To describe the relationship as one-sided would be a gross understatement.
I have no personal axe to grind here. The great majority of reviews relating to Pride of Britain's member hotels are entirely favourable and provide a welcome boost to bookings. However I do believe it is time for TripAdvisor to start listening to its real customers and to put in place a mechanism that requires every reviewer to identify themselves online. Who knows, this might allow the company to reinstate its old strapline "reviews you can trust"?