Dragon’s Den panellist and business entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne is set to spearhead a campaign against what he calls the ‘despicable and cowardly’ TripAdvisor website.
Bannatyne has sparked the campaign after the travel review site refused to remove a review that compared his Charlton House Spa Resort in Somerset to Fawlty Towers; a very incompetently run hotel in the famous BBC comedy series of the same name.
The successful businessman from Glasgow accused the website of risking the livelihoods of many hoteliers due to its policy of publishing every review it receives. He said he is considering suing the site over what he describes as a ‘dishonest’ review from a customer who Bannatyne claims is just trying to claim an ‘unwarranted refund’.
He suggests that the website is using bully boy tactics and says he has received ‘threatening letters and emails’ urging him to shut up, but he says they refuse to speak to him directly. He claims that they also removed positive reviews from one of his other hotels following his complaint.
Mr Bannatyne admitted that the US based internet site do offer the right of reply, but the comments can take two weeks to be published online, and suggests instead that they should simply remove defamatory and fraudulent reviews.
There are approximately 35 million reviews currently on the site which also claims to have 40 million hits per month. It is used by an increasing number of travellers to help them decide on holiday destinations and in particular their accommodation choice. The reviews are supposed to be accurate and truthful however many hoteliers believe that some of the reviews are defamatory, untrue and even totally fake, written by people who haven’t even stayed in their properties.
Bannatyne has denied he is being ‘thin skinned’ over the incident and has decided to put up a stand, sticking up for the smaller companies who are powerless to fight back. He declared “TripAdvisor is a despicable and cowardly organisation, which is bullying small hotel owners all over the United Kingdom. As a recent victim of a rogue review, I am well placed to lead the campaign for more protection against the perils of TripAdvisor.” He concluded “Let me say at this point that I have no problem with honest reviews and, even if they are less than positive, always welcome the opinions of customers with constructive feedback. My chain of hotels would soon be out of business if we didn’t listen to and act on these reviews.”
Emma Boyle, spokesperson for TripAdvisor responded “If a property owner has an issue with a traveller review, we provide avenues for them to raise concerns and strongly encourage them to contact our owners’ centre, where issues will be investigated fully.” She explained that TripAdvisor took a ‘zero tolerance’ policy over fraudulent or abusive comments and had a team of ‘quality assurance specialists’ whose job it is to investigate suspicious reviews.