News for the Hospitality Executive
Why Hotels Get the Last Word in Online Reviews:
An Interview with TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer
By Daniel Edward Craig, October 25, 2010
The reviews are in, and TripAdvisor is a bigger hit than ever with travelers. The world’s largest travel site attracted 40 million visitors worldwide in July, up 60% from the beginning of the year, according to comScore, and carries more than 35 million reviews of 450,000 hotels in 23 countries.
But not all reviews of TripAdvisor are glowing. Last month, Kwikchex announced its intention to launch a class-action lawsuit against TripAdvisor on behalf of over 800 hotels and restaurants on grounds of defamatory user reviews. More recently, the company told the Telegraph it plans to publish a list of reviewers it suspects of publishing fraudulent reviews and is threatening legal action against them.
Are hoteliers being whiners or is the system truly flawed? I decided to go to the source, TripAdvisor co-founder and CEO Stephen Kaufer, for his perspective. Here he talks candidly about why TripAdvisor will continue to allow anonymous reviews and why hoteliers always get the last word.
Dan: TripAdvisor has been getting a lot of heat from hoteliers these days, who question the legitimacy of some reviews. What’s your take on this issue?
Stephen: There isn’t anything new here … we’ve always had hoteliers that love TripAdvisor, as well as some who wish the website didn’t exist. The bottom line is that, in addition to the quality assurance systems we have in place, when you have hundreds or even thousands of reviews on individual properties, the wisdom of the crowds really does a fantastic job of giving you the right expectations for the hotel. We encourage hoteliers to read the comments carefully and respond appropriately to negative reviews, so prospective guests can see for themselves that you are interested in constructive feedback.Dan: Another complaint from hotels is that the system for posting responses and disputing reviews is slow, bureaucratic and highly censored.
Stephen: We’ve dedicated a lot of energy to improving our service to hoteliers. In May, we launched TripAdvisor for Business, a new division dedicated to partnering with the hospitality industry, and we strive to post management responses promptly and research reviews that are under dispute. Due to the incredible volume of content we receive, it can sometimes take longer than any of us want to get an issue resolved, and that can be frustrating to hoteliers. In terms of being bureaucratic and censoring responses, I strongly disagree, and feel our policies are very reasonable and clearly spelled out.Dan: Given that online reviews provide free marketing and feedback for hotels and, unlike some review sites, TripAdvisor allows hotels to respond to reviews, do hoteliers seem ungrateful?
Stephen: I’m surprised that more hoteliers do not make use of the free management response form. The most common argument I hear is that “I don’t want to continue the debate in public.” My response to that is simply that the criticism is out there, and to not respond is to let the charge stick. On TripAdvisor, there isn’t a debate, as the reviewer is not able to reply to the management response, so hoteliers effectively get the last word.Dan: Some review sites require proof that travelers have stayed at the hotel before they can post a review. Does TripAdvisor have any plans in that regard?
Stephen: No.Dan: Can you elaborate? How about discontinuing anonymous reviews and requiring reviewers to give their real name?
Stephen: We believe there is tremendous value to having as many reviews as possible on every property. Quantity matters, as the wisdom of the crowds drowns out the anomalies (good and bad) that can happen on any individual stay. We value the extra quality and reliability that the large number of reviews generates; and we know that if we were to require validation of a stay, the burden on the consumer would dramatically reduce the number of reviews contributed.Dan: What’s next for TripAdvisor?
Stephen: There is a lot going on, of course, but let me highlight a couple of items:Do you have a comment or question for Stephen Kaufer? Post it at www.danieledwardcraig.com and I’ll ask him to respond. (Please, no questions about individual reviews).
For tips on generating and responding to online reviews, see my other articles:
Daniel Edward Craig is a former general manager turned hotel consultant and the author of the Murder at the Universe. His articles and blog about issues in the hotel industry are considered essential reading for hoteliers, travelers and students alike. Visit www.danieledwardcraig.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: dcraig.
Copyright © 2010 Daniel Edward Craig
Daniel Edward Craig
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