Natalie Paris, The Daily Telegraph, September 6, 2013
Reservations have been raised regarding TripAdvisor’s policy of erasing old reviews following a hotel’s renovation.
Hotel owners have often claimed that bad reviews on TripAdvisor can disproportionately affect their business. However, the website’s renovations policy allows hoteliers to “wipe the slate clean" following an update, in effect giving them a second chance to improve their property’s reputation.
TripAdvisor said that the policy has been in place for at least two years and that it aims to ensure travellers “gain an accurate and useful picture”.
“Any business listed on TripAdvisor that has had a change in ownership or undergone a major renovation has the opportunity to have all reviews written prior to the changes removed,” a spokesman told Telegraph Travel.
But a hotel risk management company speaking to Telegraph Travel has suggested that bad reviews should only be removed if the hotel can demonstrate it has resolved the issue complained about.
Steve Tate, chairman at CheckSafetyFirst, a website that works with hotels on issues such as room hygiene, pool safety and staff training, thought the TripAdvisor policy should be implemented sparingly, as bad reviews often relate to concerns a renovation cannot fix.
“Hotel groups may spend millions on renovations or brands may change, but this doesn’t necessarily remove underlying problems at each property," he said. "Poor guest experience and negative reviews are usually the result of human error.”
Mr Tate said bad reviews based on “dirty rooms, unhelpful staff, poor food and dangerous pools” are all the result of poor management “which can’t be forgotten about when a renovation is made”.
"TripAdvisor should only be publishing reviews highlighting poor standards when there is some factual and objective basis for the negative review," he added.
"TripAdvisor should then only remove bad reviews if the hotel can demonstrate that it has taken steps to improve these areas. Before a review is removed the action taken must be substantive, it must address the issues and it must be able to be checked going forward.”
TripAdvisor said its guidelines state that changes to a property must be structural in nature to qualify as a major renovation and that it asks for written evidence of this as proof.
“Once this short process is complete and if the changes meet our guidelines, we allow properties that have new owners or are newly renovated to be given a clean slate on our site and will remove old reviews from their listing,” the spokesman said.
Reviews are only helpful if they have been written recently anyway, online investigation authentication service KwikChex argued this week.
"KwikChex firmly believes that reviews over two years old on the TripAdvisor site serve no real consumer purpose," a spokesman told Telegraph Travel. "A change of ownership should automatically wipe the slate clean."
"In terms of extensive renovations, while not necessarily reflecting a change of management such a large investment does indicate that a considerable commitment is being made to quality - so it is fair to provide a fresh start in terms of reputation."