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By Georges Panayotis

The earth trembles beneath the feet of the giant Trip Advisor. Long courted by hoteliers and all operators in the tourism and leisure value chain, this colossus seems to have clay feet. When it was created in February 2000, the baby was in good health and a bright future lay ahead. Growing up, it was surrounded by all the professionals of the tourism industry who have been eager to sign partnerships in order to enter this race for customer opinions and e-reputation management .

The growing adolescent reached its peak in the summer of 2014, but failed to stay on track. Instead of consolidating and expanding on the foundations of its original business by increasing its revenues through advertising, the platform sought to monetize its database. It wanted to turn customers who posted comments online about hotels into gold by selling their data. Price comparison platforms are no exception to this race for profit.

Slowly but surely, errors and inconsistencies are corrected by the laws of the market and consumer democracy. The initial idea was praiseworthy on paper, allowing everyone to express their opinion regarding the services provided for one and offering a global vision of the offer on the web for the others. But it becomes a problem when they want to be both judge and parties.

It offered its partners the opportunity to sell their products online while installing a smoke screen between online notification management and consumers. From the moment the platform began to evolve in turbulent waters by "offering" referenced companies increased visibility for a fee, the worm was in the fruit. By trying to monetize its core business, it sawed off the branch that was its base, thus weakening its economic model.

The threat is growing with the latest legislative changes that prohibit any modification or deletion of online notices submitted by consumers without prior request. This new law should cut short the small arrangements between friends that had become too common in the race to maximize profits. It should also be remembered that deceptive advertising is punishable by law, but nevertheless remains unpunished for the sites of online comparators.

It is much more reliable to consider opinions sought from a wider and more representative user group. Everyone knows that unsolicited opinions come from the happiest and most dissatisfied customers.
Ralph Nader burned his own wings when he entered politics in an attempt to shine even brighter on the international scene. He was unable to find the right model to take advantage of the notoriety gained from the work he had done in consumer protection.

Today this consumer has many ways to find transparency when it is not available at the source. It is therefore no longer possible to drown the fish and take advantage of a dominant position to monetize data at all costs. Price comparators also need to review how they work in order to really serve the customer. It is not permissible for a particular product to be placed at the top of search results in exchange for compensation paid to the comparison platform.

As during the reconstruction period after any tsunami, there is a return to fundamentals, the offer refocuses on a strong and attractive product, often under pressure from the consumer. Everyone must be in place and play their role to perfection, or be subject to sanctions from their peers, investors or the client.

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is the President & Founder of MKG Group & Hospitality ON.

Born into a family of hoteliers, Georges Panayotis left Greece at the age of 18 to study Political Science and earn a management degree at the University of Paris, Dauphine.

In 1986 he created his own company and started developing specialised marketing tools for the hotel industry.

Over the past 30 years, MKG Conseil, later to become MKG Group, became the leading European consulting firm for the hotel business, food service and tourism industries. He is also a consultant for several radio and television stations that focus on the economy.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

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