large audience,” DeKorte
said, adding that he believed
review manipulation had
been relatively isolated.
“Advertisers will look for
[online media] like that to
spend their money,” DeKorte
said. “Anyone who can reach
a large audience of travelers
early in the planning process
is going to be an appealing
place for travel advertisers.”
Brooke Ferencsik said the
site screens every review, has
automated tools to blunt attempts to subvert the review
system and relies on “more
TripAdvisor”s listing for the Radisson Hotel Fossil Creek in Forth Worth, Texas, is
than 25 million monthly
one of dozens that display a warning about the credibility of user reviews.
visitors to help screen our
Ferencsik said that when TripAdvisor
uncovers hotel employees writing glowing reviews, trashing competitors, persuading guests to remove negative reviews
or providing incentives for customers to
write positive reviews, it posts the notices.
Moreover, he said, it posts them regardless
of whether TripAdvisor and the offending
property have an advertising relationship.
“We view our notices and ratings drop as
Continued from Page 1
his sleuthing, which kicked off a new debate
in the blogosphere about the integrity and
worth of user-generated content.
Guidebook publisher Arthur Frommer, a longtime critic of travelers’ reviews,
questioned whether TripAdvisor
“contain(s) within itself the germs
of its own undoing” because, he argued, hoteliers logically would take
steps to encourage positive reviews.
Chris Elliott, who writes for
National Geographic Traveler and
MSNBC.com, wrote on his blog
that he “uses TripAdvisor when I
travel, but I do so with the knowledge that the travel industry is successfully
manipulating the site.”
Robert Cole, a travel industry marketing
and technology consultant, said he does
find value in TripAdvisor’s hotel reviews,
but he added that “the validation aspect has
always been a bit tricky with TripAdvisor,
and a number of properties and third parties have taken advantage of this to improve
their ratings and ranking results.”
“It is extremely difficult to make much
difference in the rankings [of high-profile
hotels and brands] due to the sheer volume
the best punishment rather than dropping
[the properties] from the site,” he said. “That
way, travelers can make the most educated
and informed decisions, seeing the good,
the bad and the ugly before they book.”
In the Cruise Critic controversy, the focus
of the criticism was Royal Caribbean, which
organized a group of frequent cruise reviewers into the Royal Champions. The line said
it didn’t try to unduly influence the group
but conducted special events for the group,
much as it would for the news media.
Review site Oyster
of legitimate reviews,” Cole said. “The real
issue arose with new properties and smaller
niche players in major destinations or properties in smaller markets.”
Jeff DeKorte, vice president of product
for Travel Ad Network, a TripAdvisor competitor, said the controversy about TripAdvisor’s reviews was “inside baseball” as far
as advertisers were concerned.
TripAdvisor has a “strong brand and a
For Radisson in Fort Worth, Texas, bad news by email
The Radisson Hotel Fossil Creek in Fort
Worth, Texas, received an unwanted e-mail from the TripAdvisor content-integri-ty team on June 12.
The communication, obtained by Travel
Weekly, stated: “Evidence has come to our
attention which establishes that you and/
or others in your organization have submitted material with intent to manipulate
your listing and position on TripAdvisor
by submitting positive reviews of your
own property. This is official notification
that your property is now being actively
monitored by TripAdvisor for suspicious
activity on our website.”
And up went a message on TripAdvisor
above the property’s TripAdvisor Popularity Index, which ranks the Radisson Fossil
Creek No. 83 of 99 hotels in Fort Worth,
stating that the property or people associated with it might have tried to game the
David Michel, the property’s general
manager, said the hotel encourages guests
to write positive or negative reviews but
will discontinue the practice.
Actually, TripAdvisor has no objection to
hotels inviting guests to write reviews, as
long as it doesn’t provide any incentives
for them to write positive critiques.
In addition to barring people affiliated
with a property from writing positive reviews, TripAdvisor looks askance at employees writing disparaging reviews about
competitors or encouraging guests to remove negative reviews.
“We are unaware of any attempts at the
property to submit reviews on our property,” Michel said.
Michel said the property values TripAdvisor reviews as a benchmark.
He said it was too soon to assess any
impact that the warning notice on TripAdvisor.com might have on the property’s
business. — D.S.
A new hotel review website launches
this week, offering travelers what it
promises will be independent reviews
from professional journalists who visited the properties anonymously.
The site, Oyster.com, is in some ways
a 21st century
version of the
Oyster.com CEO Elie
AAA and Mobil
Seidman is In the
ratings guides in
that it promises
has select criteria for its staffers to follow in evaluating
the properties. Unlike AAA and Mobil, it
will not attempt to rate the properties.
“The difference between what Oyster
.com reporters bring back and the marketing distortions of the hotel industry
is often shocking,” said Elie Seidman,
founder and CEO of Oyster.com.
Oyster.com will launch with hundreds
of reviews of hotels in New York, Miami, Aruba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. The reviews will look at
service, design, dining, cleanliness,
nearby nightlife and other factors.
The site’s business model relies on
revenue from advertising and commissions from hotel bookings made
through links to online travel agencies.
— Jeri Clausing
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