Travel website TripAdvisor is to offer hotels the chance to erase past reviews if owners have carried out cosmetic renovations to the building.
Establishments which carry out major works such as the installation of new guest rooms or alterations to the layout will be entitled to have all previously posted comments removed from their TripAdvisor entry under the site’s review removal policy.
The change means that complaints about problems such as rude staff, vermin infestations, inedible food or noisy neighbours will no longer appear when a potential guest looks up the hotel’s entry.
Adam Raphael, editor of the Good Hotel Guide, said: “Although it will be welcome to the hotel industry for very old reviews which are no longer relevant to be deleted, there are some problems with this policy. It means the reviews that the visitor can see are only doing half the job.”
TripAdvisor will also remove old reviews if a property is taken over by a different brand or chain, even if the building and management remains largely the same.
However, the rule does not work in reverse: if a simple management change results in vastly improved customer service, any previously posted negative reviews will remain.
“There has been a lot of debate in the industry about the validity of such reviews,” said Professor John Lennon, director of Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at Glasgow’s Caledonian University. “However, this seems a less than adequate solution – you end up with a system which is imprecise.”
TripAdvisor has come under fire from hoteliers who believe that a bad review can cost them business. Some hotels have been criticised after it emerged staff were asking friends and acquaintances to flood the site with positive reviews in a bid to attract guests.
The review removal policy requires hotels to submit documents detailing the scale of the investment.
Hotelier Dick Lewis, who runs accommodation and food businesses in the Trossachs, welcomed the news. His newest hotel, Mhor 84, has undergone a major transformation from a traditionally furnished guesthouse to a modern hotel since he and his business partner bought the former Kingshouse Hotel in Balquhidder earlier this year.
Lewis said: “When we took over the hotel, even though we had changed the name and everything else about it, old reviews still existed on TripAdvisor. For the first three months or so, before we had built up some reviews history of our own, people were coming to us saying ‘We’ve seen some really bad reviews on TripAdvisor and this doesn’t stack up’.
“At that point, TripAdvisor was actually detrimental to our business, so if we’d been able to remove the historic reviews, that would have been very helpful.”
TripAdvisor spokesman James Kay said: “Nothing is more important to us than ensuring travellers gain an accurate and useful picture of the businesses and destinations they read about on TripAdvisor.”