The perils of allowing traveller reviews on Travelbug

Travelbug thumbs up reviewTravelbug has been rocking along for four years selling NZ accommodation and I’ve been here for all but two months of those four years. I reckon (all bias aside) that we’ve got one of the best sites around to book accommodation, and generally things go swimmingly. But one of the more common topics that we need to debate with travellers and operators is the area of traveller reviews.

We’ve got about 16,000 user reviews across our over 2,800 places to stay, and they provide guidance for travellers helping keep them informed about where to stay and what their experience is likely to be. Accommodation operators can reply to any review they wish, and indeed we encourage them to do so.

Anyone can place a review and rate the accommodation with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down and if they booked that stay through us they get marked as a ‘verified review’:Travelbug verified accommodation review

But we’ve had plenty of situations in which an accommodation provider has been more than a little upset about a comment that has been left on their listing. Many have been upset enough to ask to have their listing removed and some have even threatened legal action. I’ve had to ask a few to stop swearing at me as I try to explain to them the rules about reviews and the reasons why I can’t remove the offending remark.

These situations arise because of a few key factors that I have put down to the perils of allowing traveller reviews:

Experiences are extremely personal, everyone is different and one person’s thumbs-down is another person’s thumbs-up. I don’t mind small rooms but everything MUST be spotless, so if the room is little but clean I’ll give it a thumbs-up.  You may be a little easy on dust but want a lot of space so you’d give the same place a thumbs-down. So reading between the lines starts to be really important. Luckily, Travelbug travellers seem to be really good at deciding for themselves what a reviewer means and interpreting in their own way.

Travel is often an emotional purchase and so any small disappointment can lead to online venting. This means that conversations online can get a little heated and become hard to untangle.

Accommodation providers are proud of their businesses and any negative comment is sometimes taken as a personal attack (why are you ruining my business?!). This makes discussions regarding the offending remark hard to keep calm in some instances.

Our site is for travellers and providers so we want to err on the side of leaving reviews on there, even if they are negative as a site with all positive comments is no use to anyone. But we will remove comments that are patently untrue or aimed at written retribution for a bad experience at the property.

So here at Travelbug we walk a fine line of wanting to allow as many reviews as we can, so that future travellers can be better informed. But we also need reviews to be absolutely true in all respects, and to be fair and based only on a traveller’s personal experience with that property.Travelbug accommodation review

We remove reviews that seem untrue, dodgy or that contain comments that we deem inappropriate.  But we’ll also leave negative comments as long as we can be satisfied that they are based on experience.

So if you are a traveller, please leave a review: it will help the next person that is thinking of staying at that property. But make sure you’re fair, and bear in mind the price you’ve paid and what you could reasonably expect from that property. And if you are an accommodation provider, try and engage with the reviews. Even if the review is negative you can turn the whole thing around with a well-written response. And don’t only reply to the positive reviews: that’s worse than not replying to any reviews at all.

Have you had a bad experience with reviews? We’d love to know about them. If you’ve stayed somewhere you loved or had an amazing experience, make sure you tell the world about it.

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