Latest News
HomeColumnsArticle by cleverdisDirty Tricks?

Dirty Tricks?

The potential negative power of social networking was highlighted earlier this year, when a list of the “ten dirtiest hotels in Europe” was published TripAdvisor. The British Hospitality Association expressed some dismay at the fact not only that 8 of the 10 were based in the UK, but also that such information could be published based on non-verified anonymous reports. The Association has since taken its case to the European Commission. We asked BHA Chief Executive, Bob Cotton, to explain…

The TripAdvisor story was somewhat of a nonsense, because it was a PR stunt by TripAdvisor. But to say that most of the dirtiest hotels to be found in Europe are in the UK is quite frankly rubbish. If you want to go to the depths of anywhere in Europe, I’m sure you can find some bad hotels. But there was a much more serious point that we chose to take out of this. The use of modern social media is a fact of life. It’s like the nuclear bomb… once it was invented it couldn’t be un-invented! Social media is with us today and will continue to evolve and develop. You can’t regulate what people say.

In dealing with social media in hotels, and in particular with TripAdvisor, the way has to be that the responsibility on behalf of TripAdvisor is that if comments are posted about a hotel or restaurant experience, they should try and ensure that at least the person visited the hotel or restaurant before they posted the comments. That is their responsibility… then of course the industry has to accept that if comments are made on social media, they are people’s views. You might not like someone’s view, but if that’s what they’re genuinely saying about you, then so be it, but at least the person should have actually experienced what they’re commenting on, which is the approach in Germany.

Cleverdis: There are various ways of altering one’s rating on TripAdvisor of course…

Bob Cotton: Yes, it’s like anything that’s based on judgement, or even polling on a BBC talent programme. If you want to set up a computer to make 50,000 phone calls, it’s not that difficult, if you want to go to that extent. But I read TripAdvisor, and I tend to ignore the ten best comments and the ten worst comments, and if you broadly read through comments, you start to get a view of a particular establishment.

Cleverdis: You’ve presented some ideas to the European Commission in this respect. What have you presented to them?

B.C.: What we’re talking to them about is that there has to be some responsibility from TripAdvisor’s side that comments posted do represent genuine visits to a hotel or a restaurant. It’s a bit like on eBay, where an article has to be genuine, and they’ve accepted that if items on eBay are counterfeit, they are liable. You can’t have unfettered power without a degree of responsibility. I’m all in favour of social media giving wider access and wider understanding. We want clear transparency, but some responsibility.

Cleverdis: Have you spoken directly to TripAdvisor about that?

B.C.: Well I belong to a body called Hotrec, which represents all the European bodies, and TripAdvisor came and gave us a presentation some months ago on what they are doing, and our views were put to TripAdvisor that they have some responsibility as well.

Cleverdis: What is the next step in your negotiations with the “powers that be”?

B.C.: There are some first signs. There is a bill on the table in Britain at the moment called the Digital Transfer Bill. It’s not going to get through this parliament… it’s going to get blocked, because it’s the fag end of a government, but you can see the first signs that governments are starting to understand that this new digital age is upon us and it can’t go entirely unregulated.
In the past it was the print age, which was all about libel, slander, copyright, and all those sorts of things. But there are responsibilities on all sides, whereas to date, it’s been a free-for-all. Governments must catch up with the digital age. With this wider new communications vehicle, they have to understand that guidelines and responsibilities are essential on all sides.

Cleverdis: Are you giving any advice to members on how to deal with social media?

B.C.: Not at this stage. The problem with Social Media is that it’s evolving all the time. Facebook is already becoming old hat! People are Tweeting now, and who knows what next month is going to be. My view is that at the end of the day, the most important relationship any business has is with its customer, and it’s about honesty and transparency and delivering on the promise.

Modern social media can be tools in your armoury about establishing relationships with customers, but they don’t replace the real thing, which is actually delivering on the promise. If you deliver great food and great service, you have nothing to fear.

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website | + Posts

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.