I will be the first to admit that TripAdvisor is far from being the perfect medium and model for quality control, but it is a living, breathing reality that is accessed by over 315 million unique monthly visitors with the means to read a possible 200 million reviews and opinions – making it by far the world’s largest travel site.
So when a Government employed ‘tourism consultant’ who is at least partially funded by taxpayer’s monies, including the thousands actually employed in the sector, describes (and I use the words verbatim) “Tripadvisor is seriously rubbish – you get 5 bloggers saying how wonderful your property is while writing crap about a hotel next door”, should we be concerned?
Should we be concerned for someone who holds these views in such a potentially influential position, but perhaps more onerous, is willing and able to promulgate them into the public domain?
I cannot imagine that those managers, owners and operators of hotels, attractions, villas and other tourism most highly rated on Tripadvisor share his opinions.
I vividly remember when our small hotel reached the coveted #1 spot out of over one hundred hotels on Barbados and every single comment, with the exception of one, that drove us to this heady position was placed by guests who had personally experienced a stay with us.
And I can tell you there is absolutely no room for complacency when you are in the top ten. You soon learn that if you get it wrong, any negative postings can rapidly and detrimentally result in a drop of rating and any negative implications that brings with it.
From the end of this month, with the dramatic realignment of lodging quality goalposts that will be created by the re-opening of the enhanced Sandals, many of our hotels will be attempting to play catch-up.
Financially starved after two of the worse performing years in tourism over more than the past decade and still without the promised concessions, it will be almost impossible to upgrade or refurbish any properties before the softer summer months. The hotels desperately need the revenue and hopefully profits from the peak winter season.
So if our sector is going to survive intact, the level of customer satisfaction and how it is reported on social media sites is going to be absolutely critical. It is totally futile and possibly dangerous to condemn what should be fully embraced as a largely free tool and extraordinary marketing opportunity. If the views of this individual are shared with our national tourism policymakers, then I can only think we are on a slippery road to self destruction and I believe that those at the highest level should publicly enunciate what is Government’s position on this subject.
Only in 2008 Barbados was voted the 8th in the world’s top 100 TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Destination Awards.
Again, it was our visitors who placed us in this enviable position. Should we also consider this amazing accolade ‘seriously rubbish’ too?
Do we really have the choice of cherry picking the good comments and ignoring the bad ones?