What pubs think of TripAdvisor as platform grows ever larger

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Marketing tool: the pros and cons of TripAdvisor
Marketing tool: the pros and cons of TripAdvisor

Related tags Tripadvisor Inn Chief executive officer Marketing

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the power of TripAdvisor. The site recently hit the impressive milestone of 500 million comments last month and data released by the site shows that it now receives 290 pieces of user-generated content every minute of every day.

But this success has done nothing to ease the concerns of the pub industry as licensees and pubcos highlight the perceived lack of interest the site’s managers take in their complaints about malicious or inaccurate reviews.

The Morning Advertiser​ spoke to people in the pub trade about their experiences and views on the ever-growing travel, planning and booking site.

More than 17 years in the making

It is 17 years since the site launched and unsurprisingly, although not inaccurately, Stephen Kaufer, chief executive officer and co-founder of TripAdvisor, said it has “revolutionised” the travel industry.

“Many savvy businesses report seeing incremental increases in the ratings and rankings on TripAdvisor when they engage with travellers by responding to reviews and using the feedback to improve their customers’ experience,” he said.

But many pubs have argued that the site encourages trolling​, bullying and can be “emotionally draining” so they ignore the site entirely.

Powerful marketing tool 

Emma Sweet, marketing manager at pubco Brakspear, said: “TripAdvisor still remains an incredibly powerful marketing tool, and while it can sometimes cause frustration, it can also encourage pubs to raise their game.”

She said that the pubco encourages its licensees to get feedback from customers while still in the pub, so any issues can be sorted straight away, rather than after something is posted on TripAdvisor.  

“However, as many people use TripAdvisor when planning a visit, licensees can’t afford to ignore it,” she added.

Threats and free upgrades

Lee Price, owner of The Royal Pier, Aberystwyth, said: “Given TripAdvisor's obvious potential to influence travel plans, it can be a helpful tool, provided that people use other data sources to supplement their decision-making process.

“For as long as there are stories of threats to get free upgrades or refunds, and fake rate-topping restaurants, it is probably wise to take reviews with a pinch of salt.”

Steve Haslam, from the Cutter Inn, Ely, Cambridgeshire, said he believed that TripAdvisor has turned “everyone into a critic”.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion – but the biggest thing for companies when we want to appeal something is that TripAdvisor just doesn’t listen,” he said.

Load of old tripe

Despite TripAdvisor previously telling The Morning Advertiser​ that the majority of reviews posted on the site are positive, some do not believe this.

Tim Bird, from Cheshire Cat Pubs and Bars, said: “As a company we ignore TripAdvisor completely. In fact we nicknamed it ‘Tripe Advisor’.

“It has been adopted in the main by frustrated critics who actually think they are either foodies, wine experts or world travellers or worse, all three.”

He continued: “Sadly ‘Tripe Advisor’ is used maliciously and I have no doubt of this.”

Customers sceptical of reviews

A spokesman for TripAdvisor said businesses that choose to engage with review content by analysing feedback, making the necessary improvements, and focusing on the positives and learning from the negatives, are “usually rewarded with greater customer satisfaction, better reviews, more visibility and, ultimately, more bookings or reservations”.

Kevin Charity, chief executive of The Coaching Inn Group, agreed and said the site was a “necessary evil” that “we have to live with”.   

“It’s not all bad, a correctly written reply can often turn a detractor into a promoter,” he said.

“In other words, turn the negative review to your advantage. There are often plenty of great reviews and as long as your great reviews substantially outnumber your poor ones, then TripAdvisor will help on the whole.”   

Charity added that more recently guests have told him they are becoming “more sceptical” about the site as the authenticity of reviews is questioned.

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