How a Scottish asylum became amongst Britain's top 100 addresses of the largest travel portal.
We repeatedly have written about guest reviews because this topic does polarize so beautifully. You mean it does not? Then you would not have gone on reading, would you? For many in the hotel industry the fact that any bloody guest may now be able to evaluate his property online, is still a real controversial issue.
Or at least a cause for gloating: For example, when a startling mistake undermines the reputation of a renowned review portal - such as the story of a Scottish homeless' accommodation, which was recently named a luxury hotel by TripAdvisor – we will get back to this odd occurrence later. But mostly, the industry is not amused.
Since a few years ago we saw a ferocious hotelier who wanted to discipline bare-handedly the manager of a review portal at ITB Berlin on the occasion of a panel discussion, we have no doubt that there is ongoing awareness. Also with regard to the doubtable truthfulness and service orientation of these portals.
For that not at all everything is true, which is placed as a valuable content on their pages, should be clear for now. Even when failures, malice, or fakes of the commentators are proven, it is very difficult for badly rated hoteliers to take the negative publicity off.
We remember a large American review portal at that time even advised for complaints simply just to create a positive review anticipating the negative one. A kind of reparation, which has only one winner: The review platform, because ugc (user generated content) contributes only to their seo (search engine optimization). O.k.?
Conversely, many hotel operators act everything but lazy: Many employees report that their bosses regularly prompt them to place good reviews in relevant portals (which suggests, how bookers may distinguish good from bad homes: the more positive reviews, the more suspect).
But what can you do if there is no recognizable intent behind a fake review? Nothing: If there is an online shooting spree, you must let run the disaster its course - and then properly clean up the mess. TripAdvisor has done, after a few jokers have messed statistics of the market leader.
By a specific praise campaign anonymous users were able to manipulate the rating of a simple homeless accommodation in Glasgow / Scotland at TripAdvisor to that an extent that it surfaced among the top 100 hotels in the United Kingdom. How could an accommodation like this one at all appear at TripAdvisor? Simply because it's called "Belgrove hotel"- and it was listed apparently only with the intent to land a joke.
"The marble floors and chandeliers were simply breathtaking," i.e. as a commentary, which was of course completely taken from the air. "You feel like a King!", praised another review reporter, possibly the same as with the first reviewer. Spa and pool as well, the anonymous comments praise as very favourably. It may not surprise our readers that "Belgrove hotel" has neither one thing nor the other.
Why "Hotel Heaven" did not find anybody earlier to blow the whistle on, is obvious: positive reviews initially do not hurt anyone. Only after several strange calls from tourists who wanted to book a night in the "Belgrove", the management of the accommodation drew their attention on the fake and asked for deletion. TripAdvisor reacted quickly - and pointed out how impossible they assume that 60 new articles per minute it cannot be guaranteed that all hoaxes get eliminated before publication.
Problem from TripAdvisor and other similar sites: they are not closed systems, where the only guests who definetely have stayed in the respective accomodation. They can rather be compared with an unprotected wall, on which in principle everybody may lubricate his or her tags.
The best advice for hoteliers is still to ask guests friendly – but not too assertive – write a rating on these walls. Not demand a "good" rating too ostentatiously, this can be misunderstood.
Best, so an American Marketing Manager told us recently, is a both unique an noble gesture: In a hotel in San Francisco an iPad with assessment form had been pushed him in his hands after checking out, as he was waiting for his luggage to came down. Of course he took the time to rate, but there was anyway nothing to complain about.
Ah, the iPad was just lended by the hotel. Hospitality shall not be exaggerated anyway.This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.
Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.
Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams. For more info: www.4Hoteliers.com/itb
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