One of Asia Pacific’s largest accommodation lobby groups says dealing with powerful review website TripAdvisor has become a huge issue for its 2000 members with the “possibility for abuse” having the “strong potential to undermine a business and damage it”. The Accommodation Association of Australia says operators regularly complain of “malicious”, “bogus” and “vexatious” reviews they feel powerless to stop.

“It is here where there is a strong concern that the process is weighted against operators, with their responses more likely to be moderated than those of the reviewer,” wrote Michael Georgeson, Manager National Operations for AAA.

“In a recent case presented to us, the site was used in a personal attack on a property manager via a review where the manager was accused of inebriation (amongst other complaints) whilst on duty.

“In this case, the property was able to identify that the reviewer was the disgruntled former partner of the manager.  Despite having this fact pointed out to TripAdvisor, the site refused to remove the review.

“The property was fortunately able to go directly to the reviewer and have the listing removed. However, this case underscores the lack of control and severity of attack that is possible.

“The possibility for abuse can mean that TripAdvisor has the strong potential to undermine a business and damage it quite substantially.

“This potential has been realised quite acutely in at least one UK case, where a targeted campaign was launched by an individual posting negative bogus reviews on a restaurant they had not even visited.

“Whilst it is unfortunate that this is not the only example, it is amongst those which have led to legislative changes in the UK.

“The issues are not limited to these negative reviews and the potential for attack either – even the positive reviews have pitfalls which may be questioned.

“Ghost-writing opportunities are available for the posting of reviews, in some cases specifically identifying TripAdvisor and the process to generate numbers of reviews from multiple profiles.

“To date, the advice of the Accommodation Association to members has been to attempt to respond to reviews through TripAdvisor.

“However, the consistent feedback from operators is that getting a response from the site operators is difficult, and when successful, responses to reviews can be heavily moderated, with one member saying the final response allowed was almost pointless.

“It is here where there is a strong concern that the process is weighted against operators, with their responses more likely to be moderated than those of the reviewer.

“Regardless, at this stage a measured response via TripAdvisor seems the only productive means of engagement with reviewers.”

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