Emma: Holidaymaker review sites need regulation

Emma Sanger, Future TravelAbta’s Travel Convention is now just a week away, and I can’t wait to join Travel Weekly’s agent reporter team in Malta.

I am particularly looking forward to the social media masterclass, and I will be paying close attention to the comments and issues raised by TripAdvisor.

I believe the whole area of customers booking holidays on the basis of subjective reviews needs serious attention and tighter regulation.

It’s become a normal part of the process for the customer to use a site such as TripAdvisor to help inform their judgments before booking a holiday.

I must admit that I have also fallen into the TripAdvisor trap to advise clients both positively and negatively.

But there is growing concern over how much truth you can get from advice that is subjective, has very little regulation and is open to abuse.

How much value should be placed on this sort of unregulated customer feedback, particularly when statistically we are far more likely to say something negative than positive?

And, just like me, I’m sure you will have thought about who is actually writing the reviews.

If you also think that the majority of reviews are likely to be customer complaints, then it seems natural that someone connected to the hotel or restaurant has counteracted the complaint with a glowing “review” of their own.

Take this example, which can’t help but make you laugh: “My restaurant meal was absolutely fabulous and I’ll never forget the experience, ever! Beautiful surroundings, fabulously professional service and it couldn’t be faulted. Thank you so much for making my holiday so wonderful.”

Perhaps a way the system could be improved is for hotel managers to respond to positive and negative reviews.

Andre Boersma, general manager of the Jalousie Plantation in Saint Lucia, does just this. He responds to every review, both good and bad.

This creates a more authentic, balanced and positive way in which TripAdvisor can be used.

Ticket to ride

On the subject of the Abta convention, I will also be on a panel at the cruise forum debate, Innovation v Traditional Service.

One of the issues we will be discussing is e-tickets in the cruise industry, which you will all know is a highly emotive subject.

Given that cruising has traditionally been considered a luxury product, many agents argue that e-tickets have no place in this sector.

I will certainly be making my views clear, but for now I’ll keep my powder dry. Watch this space.

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