Hotel owner and Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne has spoken out about the damage being done by guests threatening hotel staff with negative reviews on TripAdvisor and how the online review site is trying to stop him responding with the truth.
"People are coming to our hotels and threatening to write bad reviews in order to get money off their bills," said Bannatyne, who owns four hotels - Bannatyne's Charlton House Spa hotel in Shepton Mallet, Somerset; Bannatyne hotel, Darlington; Bannatyne hotel, Durham; and Bannatyne Spa hotel, Hastings.
He was speaking after confronting a guest who posted a negative review about Charlton House on TripAdvisor, which he described as being full of lies. The review was later removed from TripAdvisor's website at the request of the guest after Bannatyne said he was prepared to take legal action.
Bannatyne said he has no issue with reviews which give a guest's opinion about a hotel, but that it is his right to reply to factual inaccuracies, which he believes TripAdvisor is trying to prevent him from doing.
Emma O'Boyle, UK senior media relations manager at TripAdvisor, said the company will not comment on specific disputes between hotel owners and reviewers, but advised that any hotelier who disagreed with the content of a review to "a public management response" on the site.
"This tool allows hoteliers to directly respond to reviews within TripAdvisor, offering the opportunity to acknowledge both positive and negative feedback. If an owner wishes to use our private messaging system to send a travel-related message, the owner must adhere to all of our private messaging guidelines," she said.
"TripAdvisor does not facilitate direct contact between owners and members of our travel community."
In an e-mail to Bannatyne's company, the TripAdvisor Support Team said: "If an attempt is made to subvert our system, TripAdvisor may take one or more of the following actions on your property listing: drop it by several pages in the TripAdvisor popularity index, post a large red penalty notice explaining that the reviews are suspicious, exclude it from TripAdvisor's Travellers Choice awards, Top 10 lists, press releases, etc."
Bannatyne said: "How can it be right that TripAdvisor will penalise us by saying that we are subverting their system be standing up for the truth? By telling me not to threaten legal action to someone who has told lies, TripAdvisor are behaving in a threatening manner.
"I reserve the right to call someone a dishonest liar if they tell specific untruths about my hotels."
By Janet Harmer
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