What are the effects of TripAdvisor’s new policy?
What are the effects of TripAdvisor’s new policy?
16 NOVEMBER 2017 8:17 AM

The latest headlines rocking the traveling public involve reports of assault and alcohol tainting at all-inclusive resorts. How do reports like this affect hotel owners and operators? Tell us.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the reports surrounding TripAdvisor and all-inclusive resorts in Mexico that have been reported in various media outlets over the past few months, most recently coming up again earlier this month.

They’re about two separate but related issues: That sexual assault and alcohol tainting are happening at some all-inclusive resorts—leading to rape, burglary, in some cases death—and that in many cases, reviews site TripAdvisor has refused for various reasons (some given and some not) to publish guest reviews and forum posts that talk about sexual assault, sicknesses due to tainted alcohol and other injuries that allegedly happened to them at all-inclusive hotels and resorts in Mexico.

If you’re not familiar with these stories, please take time to check out the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has reported on the topic for the last few months. Reporter Raquel Rutledge and others on the Journal Sentinel team have talked to many people who claim to have experienced rape, drugging, blackouts from tainted alcohol, burglary and even death at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.

Rutledge explains that over the course of her investigation, she found that one thing many of these reports had in common was that TripAdvisor wouldn’t allow people to post comments or reviews with those negative reports.

So she looked into that and found a few common elements: In some cases, people were told by TripAdvisor that their posts were rejected because they violated “family-friendly language” guidelines. Others were rejected because of what TripAdvisor called “hearsay guidelines.” Of note—the allegations the Journal Sentinel reported on went back as far as 10 years or more in some cases.

On 10 November, TripAdvisor issued a statement about what it calls its “latest processes enhancements and new health, safety and discrimination notifications.”

Read it through yourself, but I’ll give a few highlights. First, the company reiterates the “strict separation” between its commerce and content businesses. It talks about how in the years since many of these early allegations were made, it has changed its content filters: “A few years ago, we updated that policy to allow more descriptive reviews and content about first-hand accounts of serious incidents like rape or assault,” the company says in its statement.

And now it has the option to place a new notification on individual TripAdvisor listings to warn consumers about “news reports about health, safety or discrimination issues concerning a business.” The statement says the company will evaluate when and whether to place that notification on listings “where that issue may not be apparent in TripAdvisor reviews or forum content.”

According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, three resorts now carry that new warning: the Iberostar Paraiso Maya, the Iberostar Paraiso Lindo and the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Is that the best move? Is it enough? Is it too much? And what does it mean for hotel owners and operators?

Reporting on topics like this can get tricky. There are few court cases with documented outcomes. There’s no way of knowing how TripAdvisor screened its content when these allegations were made, or choices it made as a company. There’s really very little way of knowing what the truth is and who is—or isn’t—telling it.

This is why I’m interested in hearing from you, Hotel News Now’s readers, on how reports like this affect your business or set precedents for things like how you respond to online reviews.

We are not a consumer news outlet, so we don’t report on what stories like this mean for guests. But as service journalists, we would like to know what they mean for you—hotel owners, operators and developers.

What are the big issues here? Poorly regulated and implemented safety and security? Bad brand oversight? Lack of training? Poor hiring practices?

What about how reports like this reflect on TripAdvisor? Are you more concerned now that your hotel might end up with one of their new warnings, and not know all the facts about why it got there?

We’ve written about topics like alcohol liabilities hotels can face, ways hotels can ensure better safety for female travelers and so on, but we’d like to know what we’re missing.

Please let me know. Comment below, email me at sricca@hotelnewsnow.com or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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