What Hotels Will Resort to For a Good Review
Oh, the things hotels will do for a good review.
It's not enough to ask guests for a write-up on a popular site such as TripAdvisor or Yelp after they've checked out. Lately, some innkeepers have been pressuring their customers to say positive things online -- in extreme cases, even before they've checked in.
Take what happened to
"Two or four guests staying together can send two to four independent reviews," the innkeeper wrote. "Different pseudonyms should be used."
"He hounded me to give him a positive review," she said. When she arrived, the owner told her he was trying to get TripAdvisor to remove some of the less flattering write-ups about his property, while persuading guests -- and future guests -- to say nice things about his business. She says the hotel was "fine," although her quarters were somewhat cramped.
At a time when properties from the largest chain hotel to a two-room bed-and-breakfast are engaging in a practice known as reputation management, the latest tools of the trade are you, their guests.
Where is the line? It depends on whom you ask. TripAdvisor, the largest and arguably most credible of the online review sites, takes a dim view of resorts that try to spin their own ratings. The site's policy, which has been in effect since 2006, is clear:
"Property owners are welcome to encourage their guests to submit user reviews upon their return home, but they are not allowed to offer incentives, discounts, upgrades, or special treatment on current or future stays in exchange for reviews." In other words, the reviews have to be legitimate and not motivated by any special offers.
"Whenever a traveler reports that they've been offered an incentive, we follow up with the property and, where appropriate, impose penalties," said
Chris Brusznicki, the president of GamedayHousing.com, a sports vacation rental Web site, says that online reviews are so important to his business that he personally calls guests to ask them for a review on Yelp and
But hotels that are on the up-and-up are reluctant to tell guests what to write online.
"There is no shortcut or marketing ploy that can do as much for you as good old-fashioned hard work and being truly passionate about providing genuine hospitality," said
And yet for every HKHotels or
It was only a matter of time before the backlash. In January,
So what does all this mean to you? Obviously, hotel executives don't think twice about leveraging guests like you to improve their online reputations. But if it's happening to you, it's probably happening to tens of thousands of other hotel guests every day. How many of them are being asked to endorse a hotel they've never stayed in, or have been offered a free night in exchange for a glowing write-up? And how many are doing it?
What does that say about the overall reliability of user-generated hotel reviews? Well, let's just say that it doesn't exactly enhance their reputation.
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(c) 2010 Christopher Elliott
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