Tag Archives: tripadvisor

TripAdvisor U-Turn Over Ratings System

Controversy over Rating System Leaves TripAdvisor Red-Faced Again

TripAdvisor has put its foot in it again with a new rating system that allows people to rate hotels and restaurants without even leaving a review.  Anyone with a Facebook account or a TripAdvisor account can rate dozens of places they have never visited in seconds.

TripAdvisor’s New Ratings System

The latest controversy follows hot on the heels of a reprimand from the Advertising Standards Authority which forced TripAdvisor to remove misleading claims that its reviews are posted by real people – TripAdvisor had to admit that it could not tell how many of its reviews were fake.

It is clear that things have gone from bad to worse, with some users using the new “easy-peasy” rating system mischievously – or maliciously – to post hundreds of ratings for places they had never visited.  The new ratings were even more deeply flawed than the review system, since owners were left without any specific review comments to know what the reason was for a rating and without any right of reply.

For example, Tnooz found that Will83 had contributed only three “regular” reviews since January 2008, but suddenly almost 560 ratings appeared under this profile in a matter of days – the biggest influx of new ratings by the user appearing on Christmas Day 2011.  Perhaps too much Christmas booze and bored with the telly?

Not surprisingly, hotels and restaurants have been in uproar over the new ratings.  On TripAdvisor’s public forum over 240 messages of protest have been registered in a few days.  On the Owners’ forum, hidden from and not accessible to the public, the fury has been even greater.

Under this barrage of criticism, the review giant today finally caved in dropped the new ratings without explanation.

Richard Bradford, owner of Porters English restaurant and the Covent Garden Grill, said of the latest controversy: “At least with reviews you knew where they were coming from and what the problem was, and you could respond.

“Now with these ratings there is nothing you can do. There seems to be a vastly higher percentage of poor and terrible ones for Porters and these will completely distort our ratings for TripAdvisor.”

A spokeswoman for TripAdvisor initially defended the change, saying that the ratings were coming from TripAdvisor and Facebook members about whom TripAdvisor had profile information.

“The recently highlighted ratings provide yet another source of insight from which travellers can make an educated decision when planning their trips,” she claimed. “Ratings enable travellers to rate accommodation properties, restaurants and attractions with a simple overall score out of five. This contribution option allows travellers to quickly rate hospitality businesses to compliment standard reviews, giving users another source of insight when planning their trips.”

Tnooz uncovers “TripAdvisor Select” scam


Yesterday Kevin May and Tnooz published an article revealing a scam whereby properties have been contacted by someone claiming to be the new “director of traveler reviews at TripAdvisor”, whose email says the company is launching a programme known as “TripAdvisor Select”.

The mailer says that TripAdvisor is looking into ways of giving some hotels on the site with the best reviews an official badge of approval, to say that the property has been audited for high quality by TripAdvisor itself following a visit.

Hotels getting the official thumbs-up from TripAdvisor would be rewarded with a “TripAdvisor Select” logo on their listing and, most importantly, having this official approval would prevent users from leaving negative reviews about a property!

Naturally it’s a scam and the mailer has nothing to do with TripAdvisor, despite   the mailer signing off with the address of the company Massachusetts headquarters in the USA.

#TripAdvisor Ordered to Remove False Claims in UK

TripAdvisor Ordered to Remove Advertising Claims

TripAdvisor has been ordered by the Advertising Standards Authority to remove a number of marketing claims from its UK website.  This follows complaints to the UK advertising watchdog that the TripAdvisor website includes false claims such as “Read real reviews from real travellers”, “TripAdvisor offers trusted advice from real travellers”, “Reviews you can trust” and “More than 50 million honest travel reviews and opinions from travellers around the world”.

The ASA ruled that consumers might be fooled by fraudulent posts since reviews on TripAdvisor could be posted “without any form of verification” and its claims of trustworthiness were misleading.

“Don’t major on trustworthiness if fake reviews can appear”, said Guy Parker, ASA chief executive.

The ASA  findings stated: “We noted that reviewers were asked to agree to a declaration that their review was their genuine opinion of the hotel and that they had no personal or business affiliation with the hotel, or been offered an incentive to write a review for it.

“(But) We also noted that reviewers were not asked to similarly confirm that they had no competitive interest in the place they were reviewing, or were posting a review on behalf of a competitor or other interested party, and we did not consider that agreeing to a declaration in itself would necessarily prevent non-genuine reviews from being posted on the site.

“Notwithstanding that, we understood that reviews could be placed on the site without any form of verification, and that whilst TripAdvisor took steps to monitor and deal with suspicious activity, it was possible that non-genuine content would appear on the site undetected.”

It concluded that certain TripAdvisor advertising slogans and claims were misleading because they implied that consumers could be assured that all review content on the TripAdvisor site was genuine, when that was not in fact the case.

It told TripAdvisor “not to claim or imply that all the website were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trusted”.

It warned that the issue of fake reviews was particularly a problem  if a business only had a small number of reviews, and that offering owners a right to reply did not address the problem.

“This should be regarded as a benchmark ruling which applies to all web sites which make claims about the reliability of their user-created content,” the ASA’s spokesman Matthew Wilson said.

Despite the ruling, TripAdvisor downplayed the risk of customers being misled. “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,” it said in a statement.

The tripadvisor.co.uk homepage now contains no reference to the word “trust” and simply describes itself as “the world’s largest travel site”.  However, its international tripadvisor.com website, also visible in the UK, continues to describe its content as the “world’s most trusted travel advice” and that “you’ll find real hotel reviews you can trust”.

TripAdvisor Acquires Holiday Watchdog Review Site

TripAdvisor Acquires Holiday Watchdog Review Site

TripAdvisor today announced it has acquired Holiday Watchdog, http://www.holidaywatchdog.com/, another user-generated travel site in the U.K.

“Holiday Watchdog nicely complements existing content in the TripAdvisor Media Network,” said TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer. “The acquisition is designed to strengthen TripAdvisor’s position as the predominant travel planning resource and adds another strong brand to the TripAdvisor Media Network, a collection of travel media sites.”

Holiday Watchdog will be operated out of TripAdvisor’s London office and there are no near-term plans for integration of content with other TripAdvisor® Media Network sites. The founders of Holiday Watchdog will work through a transition period but have chosen not to stay with TripAdvisor long-term. Terms of the acquisition are not being disclosed.

TripAdvisor claims that Holiday Watchdog will continue to be operated as an independent site.  However, TripAdvisor has  a history of quashing potential competitors before they become a real threat to its virtual monopoly.  Remember TravelLibrary?  Probably not, but it was a user-generated review site competing with TA in the early days, running neck-and-neck for reviews in many markets, until TA bought it and effectively smothered it.  Its review content these days is almost all copied over from TripAdvisor and its previously active “Review” community has largely drifted away.

TripAdvisor Shares Down

TripAdvisor shares finished down on its first day trading on the Nasdaq yesterday.

The company, whose split from Expedia has been expected throughout 2011, is trading under the symbol TRIP.

 

On launch yesterday Stephen Kaufer, TripAdvisor CEO, rang the Nasdaq opening bell.  The shares were offered at $30 but fell sharply to a low of $27.51,  ending the day at $27.67.

The breakup of Expedia and TripAdvisor has created two distinct companies, although TripAdvisor continues to receive referral fees by promoting Expedia travel businesses on its website.  But free to trade independently of Expedia, TripAdvisor is now in a stronger position  to negotiate deals with other travel agencies.

 

TripAdvisor PR Firm Faked Travel Blogs

TripAdvisor PR Firm Faked Travel Blogs

TripAdvisor has appointed Edelman PR in the UK to defend it against increasing criticism and legal challenges over the credibility of its reviews.

Edelman has been briefed to monitor the hospitality and political landscapes, passing on the message that the site is a ‘trusted source’ and communicating the benefits of TripAdvisor to the UK tourism industry.

How strange that in order to defend its waning credibility TripAdvisor should choose the PR agency that set up fake blogs in the USA to promote another client.

Wal-Marting Across America

A few years ago the Wal-Marting Across America blog documented the supposed adventures of Jim and Laura, a couple traveling the country in a recreational vehicle and camping in Wal-Mart parking lots.

Along the way they chatted with happy Wal-Mart employees, like the guy whose company health insurance saved his son’s life, or the woman who worked her way up from cashier to corporate manager.  Everywhere they parked up they met happy Wal-Mart employees – a surprise as Wal-Mart was notorious for being stingy with wages and benefits.   The blog turned out to be a fake, its pro-Wal-Mart message an invention of the Edelman PR firm.

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/oct2006/db20061009_579137.htm?campaign_id=rss_topStories

Shortly after,  three contributors to two other blogs were also identified as Edelman employees working for Wal-Mart.

http://www.marketingvox.com/more_fake_walmart_blogs_edelman_fesses_up-022878/

The story of Edelman and Wal-Mart became instant folklore in the world of PR and marketing.  Clearly someone at Tripadvisor has a great sense of humour to employ the same company for this particular PR task!

Beware blogs and people posting stuff in praise of TripAdvisor, folks!

TripAdvisor Partners with Toprural, Interhome, Stayz and AKENA

TripAdvisor Partners with Toprural, Interhome, Stayz and AKENA

TripAdvisor has announced partnership deals with vacation rental websites  Interhome, Stayz, Toprural and AKENA Technologies which operates MediaVacances.com.

TripAdvisor’s existing rental property inventory includes subsidiaries FlipKey and Holiday Lettings. Since Holiday Lettings was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2010, owners already listed on the site have expressed concern that Holiday Lettings began displaying TripAdvisor reviews without consulting with them first.

With its new partners TripAdvisor’s vacation rental empire will exceed 200,000 properties.

“We are thrilled to partner with these leading vacation rental sites, as each brings exceptional properties and a tremendous amount of local market expertise to the TripAdvisor community. Our goal is to offer travelers the best listings from partners who know the locations best,” said Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business. “Our partnership with these global brands demonstrates our belief and commitment to vacation rentals as an important accommodation option for travelers, and we’re looking to partner with elite vacation rental companies worldwide with the aim of enhancing the traveler experience.”

However, the use of anonymous reviews on websites is currently under challenge in the UK where the use of unverified reviews for marketing purposes appears to be in breach of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) non-broadcast code, which states that marketers must be able to show a review is authentic by proving it was made by an identifiable and potentially contactable person.

About TripAdvisor’s new Partners

Toprural

Toprural has one of the largest rural vacation rental databases in Europe and is the leading rural tourism site in Spain.  Toprural has over 50,000 accommodation offers in 10 European countries.  TopRural already allows users of its sites to post reviews without verifying the identity of the reviewer or whether they stayed at the rental in question.

Interhome

Swiss based Interhome includes 32,000 holiday apartments, homes and chalets in 29 countries worldwide.

Stayz Group

The Stayz Group is the largest holiday rental group in Australia, with 40,000 property listings in 1,400 locations

AKENA 

AKENA Technologies, based in France, owns several vacation rental websites, including MediaVacances.com (France), MediaVacanze.com (Italy), MediaVacaciones.com (Spain), MediaVakanties.com (Netherlands) and MediaFerias.com (Portugal).

AKENA also operates ski websites such as Winter-Sports.com (UK), Sports-Hiver.com (France), Sport-Invernali.com (Italy) and Esquiland.com (Spain).