TripAdvisor CEO Goes On Defensive After Scathing Review

Open Jaw

Well, that struck a chord.

A recent column in the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper  poured scorn on TripAdvisor. That’s nothing new – the massive review site is a frequent target of criticism. But this time something clearly irked TripAdvisor CEO Steve Kaufer, and he responded with a 1,400 word rebuttal.

Food and travel critic Marina O’Loughlin slammed the company, taking shots at everything from its integrity to Kaufer’s eye-popping salary, estimated in 2013 at $39 million. “I don’t hate it [TripAdvisor] because it enables reviews of and tickets for cruel animal attractions, or for its climate of blackmail-enabling entitlement,” wrote O’Loughlin. “I hate it because it’s shit.” Ouch.

In particular, she disparages TripAdvisor’s listings of top restaurants or hotels, claiming some are “utterly fictitious,” and how awards are handed out to hotels that are no longer in business, such as the property in Tunisia at the centre of a terrorist attack in the summer of 2015.

After outlining various episodes involving TripAdvisor, she concludes: “Please don’t mistake this for the frustrated bleatings of a dead tree media fossil threatened by the mighty onslaught of citizen journalism. For one thing, I am writing this from the perspective of a punter, not a pundit. For another, while I welcome many voices, this internet clamour isn’t turning us into a democratic utopia, but rather something that resembles the film Idiocracy, in which a man wakes up after 500 years in a world of, well, idiots. I’m not against the idea of a source of unbiased, fact-checked, crowd-sourced wisdom. But TripAdvisor ain’t that.”

In his rebuttal, Kaufer says he disagrees with “almost all” of O’Loughlin’s points.

“What is interesting is that the criticisms I hear often come from 2 opposite ends of the debate. On the one hand, there are those who say we should engage in greater levels of censorship to counter fraudulent reviews. On the other hand, we are critiqued that our guideline process is too stringent. Both viewpoints are flawed in their own unique ways.

“By giving customers a voice we have helped millions of travellers take better trips. Professional critics are free to disagree, but I am going to stand by the hundreds of millions of travellers and millions of business owners who also know from their own experience that TripAdvisor is a force for good for both the traveller community and for the global travel industry.”


Larry Bradshaw - July 15, 2016 @ 13:07
I now question reviews on TripAdvisor. I had the unfortunate experience of staying at a name brand hotel in Surrey, BC. The TripAdvisor ratings said it was an awarded hotel. There were a few negative reviews but I always felt they can be explained away for a few sensible reasons. After staying at the hotel, I soon realized the negatives were accurate and gave the true story. After looking at the positive reviews, I noticed a few trends:
1. the majority of the reviewers were single review users
2. a significant number of them were local registered users (within 1 hr of Surrey)
3. the positive reviewers all commented on the same things, often praising the manager, the "(un)high quality" breakfast, the location etc.

I feel that the hotel is posting fake reviews by setting up TripAdvisor accounts under 100's of different name to gain the status they have achieved. That is not hard to do nowadays using proxy servers etc.

As a seasoned business traveller, I now look at TripAdvisor thru a different set of glasses. Single hotel reviewers opinions are scrutinized for a property if they seem to make up the majority of reviews. I compare that with other review sites where possible.

I feel TripAdvisor needs to better validate their direct reviewers by some means. Hotel referred reviews likely are not the problem here.

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