Hospitality businesses live or die by their reputation. That's why user review sites such as TripAdvisor manage to polarise industry opinion so thoroughly.
From the enormous amount of comment we receive it is clear that few occupy the middle ground. Operators are either delighted with the positive feedback they receive - enjoying what is effectively priceless free PR - or they are livid at what they consider to be slanderous and vindictive posts that bear no relation to their business.
Many in the latter group have passed on their gripes to reputation management firm KwikChex, which has delivered a report to the Advertising Standards Authority (page 7). Some comments KwikChex has highlighted on TripAdvisor are quite shocking - and we've steered clear of the more lurid and outrageous claims. But they do explain why some businesses treat TripAdvisor with such contempt.
However, the site does claim it has procedures in place to ensure that such cases are rare. It is also aware of the emergence of companies that claim to be able to submit reviews to boost a property's standing. As it points out, this is not only against its guidelines but actually illegal.
Operators are entitled to get hot under the collar when they read reviews that don't accurately represent their operation - particularly when they bear no relation to fact - but most guests should be able to see through hysterical rants.
The only way to ensure your voice is heard is to engage with online marketing: that may mean replying to each post, be it good or bad.
Review sites can be a great way to spread the word of the merits of hospitality businesses, but the ground rules must be well policed to ensure that everyone is operating within the law.
James Stagg, Content editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeperjames.firstname.lastname@example.org