Hoteliers have been gloating since Attack of the Trip Advisors went out. The programme followed a bunch of seriously odd characters as they went about the country on a mission to find fault with whichever place they stayed at, after which they would post nasty reviews on TripAdvisor. It made for very entertaining TV, the funniest of the weirdoes being Ricky, who took his Gran with him on holiday. Gran told the camera that Ricky had been bullied at school and this was his way of getting revenge on society. But if the truth be told, the hoteliers were just as weird as their guests. Daniel Fromm, the producer, whose previous show was the huge hit My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (and who also produced “our” edition of How the Other Half Lives) has a genius for finding characters like this.
If you want to see a hotelier spit blood ask him about TripAdvisor. What really upsets people is the unfairness of some of the reviews and the fact they can’t do much about them. A review may be malicious, untrue and posted by a rival and once a nasty review’s up there it’s very difficult to get it down. And reviewers can, and frequently do, use the threat of a bad review to blackmail hoteliers.
Why then, am I a huge fan of the site? The reason is that I see it as the free market in action. Guests can have their say and hoteliers can’t hide behind glossy photos and extravagant testimonials. If the “Sea View” hotel has a view of a car park, the truth will out. On the whole, I think that TripAdvisor tells the truth. The public can see through reviews which have been posted by the hotel and will discount those which are extravagantly brutal. Moreover, and this is the most important point, hoteliers are scared of the reviews and when an uncomfortable truth is revealed they’ll up their game to make things better. In the end, it’s the customer who wins and that can’t be bad – after all, we are customers ourselves.
That’s not to say that TripAdvisor doesn’t need to sharpen up its act, and smartly. It’s intolerable that false or defamatory accusations are allowed to stand, or that if a hotelier has rectified a problem by, for instance, refurbishing a room, reviews that have become out-dated should be allowed to stand. TripAdvisor must never allow hoteliers to call the tune, but they are weakening the brand by being unfair.