TripAdvisor.ie has long been the scourge of the hotel industry but it seems that a certain Irish hotel group is sneakily trying to fight back.
The Irish Times reports today that the Carlton Hotel Group, one of the State’s largest hotel chains, encouraged dozens of employees to post false positive reviews on the TripAdvisor website.
TripAdvisor is one of the most influential websites when it comes to potential holidaymakers choosing a place to stay. On the website, users are free to write honest reviews of their experiences in any hotel. Users can praise good service, or warn other holidaymakers of shoddy food, rude staff and dirty rooms.
The Irish Times reports that the hotel chain sent an email to at least 29 employees in the summer of 2010. The email said that the Carlton Hotel Group wanted “a more pro-active management of the reviews on TripAdvisor” and also revealed that a plan had been agreed which would involve managers nominating five people from each hotel to post fake reviews.
The email was sent by Jean O’Connell, the group’s head of sales and marketing. She wrote that 150 “TripAdvisor Posters” would be contacted by senior hotel staff and told which hotel they had to review and in what timeframe the review had to be posted.
“By pooling TA posters it will give better flexibility and IP addresses will be from across the country,” she wrote in the email.
Managers were also asked to charge someone with the responsibility of taking “a minimum of 30 photographs that reflect the excellent product you have and key USPs you want to get across.” It was stressed that the photographs should not look professional and should be from a digital camera.
The TripAdvisor Posters were forbidden from using a Carlton laptop or PC of any kind and would be expected to post photographs that were chosen by the head office.
Ms O’Connell said last night that she had sent the email but it was only a proposal and the plan had never been initiated. She claimed that it had been drafted in response to “evidence of fake reviews” about Carlton hotels on the website.
Emma Shaw, TripAdvisor’s director of communications, said that a “full and detailed investigation” was under way and that the company had “a zero tolerance approach” to such sneaky activity.
Do you consult TripAdvisor before you head off on holiday? And do the reviews play a large part in where you decide to stay?