TripAdvisor is Preventing Hotels from Improving the Review Ecosystem

One of our clients recently starting receiving disturbing emails from TripAdvisor. For those in the business, this experience is all too familiar: The emails are vague on the actual transgressions that may have occurred, but chillingly explicit regarding the consequences of continuing with the unspecified behavior. Honest hoteliers (among them, our clients) certainly want to play by the rules and avoid suspension of their accounts, but they have no one (other than a sales rep) to talk to about what, specifically, has gone wrong. And even then, the feedback is almost never actionable. The hotel is left with fear that its strategies might possibly (but not definitely) are somehow at odds with the policies of TripAdvisor.

It is a shame that hoteliers are left so vulnerable in a system that serves guests so well.

Increasing quantities of players in the hospitality space understand the fundamental importance that reviews now play in a potential guest’s decision-making process. They apply best practices like encourages happy guests to leave reviews, and they purchase products like Revinate or ReviewPro to monitor their efforts. While there will always be bad seeds, most hotels do not prevent bad reviews from being posted, they simply expend less effort in encouraging unhappy guests to post a review than happy ones. This is actually good for hotels, guests, and TripAdvisor. More opinions are being brought into the mix, and those that are negative will stand out more.

In my case, we take a hotel that has enjoyed an exceptionally loyal following for decades. Until recently, the hotel never monitored nor encouraged reviews. But, with our guidance, the hotel is now doing both and seeing a floodgate of positive reviews come in. Truth: we see bad reviews come in, too, and I’m happy to see them. They provide actionable feedback to management, demonstrate the authenticity of the reviews to other readers, and allows management to demonstrate (again, to other readers) that they care and will attempt to correct any negative experiences.

These positive reviews have somehow tripped an algorithm within TripAdvisor and we are now trying to explain what has occurred to someone, anyone, within TripAdvisor so that we can clear the hotel’s reputation. We can show how the TripAdvisor scores match with decades of internal survey scores, for example.

While the quantity of reviews being posted and read for hotels continues to skyrocket, they quantity of review platforms (TripAdvisor, Orbitz, Google Places) continues to grow too. Hoteliers increasingly have a choice regarding to where they would like to encourage reviews. The primary factor will, of course, continue to be distribution (TripAdvisor remains the 800 pound gorilla in this space), but other factors like dispute resolution, and review conversion rate could soon influence hoteliers. My prediction: the ultimate winner in this space will be the platform that can best enable interactions between guests and hotels, not just guests and guests AND develop the best algorithm and resolution process for detecting fraud. At present, I don’t see TripAdvisor rating that set of objective very highly…