In a week where the Advertising Standards Authority is due to rule on Tripadvisor in the UK, the company has decided to launch a dedicated customer care line – mainly to help out disgruntled hotel and restaurant owners clean up their profiles.
The hospitality industry has been grinding their teeth for some time over the explosion in popularity of Tripadvisor. Ratings by the general public tend to be focused on those who are extremely satisfied or extremely unsatisfied – not to mention the accusations of false reviews by business owners.
When a site contains user-generated data, there will always be errors; Wikipedia is a good example of this. But allowing the general public to give feedback and to self-police the feedback of others does have many advantages to the time-honoured tradition of hotel inspectors and restaurant critics.
Indeed scientific journals, such as Nature, believe that Wikipedia is just about as accurate as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, indicating that once you open a network to everyone, you do get some duff information and vandalism, but the depth and reach of the good information far outweighs the bad.
Which leads me back to Tripadvisor. It has grown into a phenomenally powerful tool for recommending restaurants and hotels based on the opinion of previous visitors and being open it is obvious that it can be subject to abuse.
The earlier approach of Tripadvisor, to just leave it entirely up to the users to police and to stonewall complaints by business owners, might work in a perfect world, but unfortunately there are some unscrupulous business owners who will plant false reviews.