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August 2014 travel news 37
Once upon a time, back in the dark ages before the world had spun a web that meant you could exercise a little remote retail
therapy in Amazon or book a flight online (as opposed to with your trusty travel agent), hoteliers and travellers alike relied on
Word Of Mouth.
The oral relating of experience; if you ran a reasonable establishment, you would hope your punters would think to relay happy
experiences once back home, to gently pass along the message, massaging the market. And if you were investigating a
holiday, you may just remember that your friend, neighbour, or that really irritating man at the Club who never bought a round
had once mentioned having had a good experience at X and may be able offer some useful insight.
And time and travel and distance and fudgy memories blurred the bad bits, usually, and sharpened the good or even the
mediocre. An OK holiday in the sun morphed as the best time of your life once you were back in the office and staring forlornly
at your in-tray (as opposed to inbox). You tended to forget about the restaurant that served up a dish of dodgy prawns so that
you spent the night prostrate with bellyache, what was its name anyway?
But that was before the www., before apps, and before Tripadvisor which is effectively Word of Mouth - on speed.
Now, courtesy of your hotel’s wifi (comes as standard in most establishments these days, like fresh towels and breakfast) and
your app laden Apple, you can upload your rant about sloppy service the moment you clock your waiter fiddling with his phone
whilst you’re trying to attract his attention to order a drink, or you can thumb your gushing appreciation of the view the minute
you step onto the verandah of your home for the next five days. You can share your bad prawn experience with the world
within hours, whilst you still remember the name of the restaurant.
What's it all about? Is it the real deal? Anthea Rowan explains...
But is the immediacy always such a good thing? Is it
reliable? Does it make travel easier? Improve marketing for
those in the business? I talked to James Kay at traveller’s
ethereal bible, Tripadvisor.
Tripadvisor was conceived fourteen years ago when its
founder and CEO, Steve Kaufer was planning a holiday
to Mexico and struggling to find the information he needed
to decide when/where/how to go. It was easy enough to
find glossy marketing brochures (remember those?) and
guidebooks, but what he really wanted was feedback from
people who’d recently been there and experienced it (Word
of Mouth, in other words, except he didn’t have a friend/
neighbour/irritating man from the Club who’d been where
he wanted to go and recently enough for their opinions to
He decided what Travel needed was a single go-to place
that delivered the inside scoop on destinations. And so
Tripadvisor was born and is, today, the world’s largest travel
site with 260 million unique monthly visitors, 60 million
members worldwide and more than 4 million businesses
and properties listed in over 140,000 destinations.
If you want to go somewhere, anywhere, chances are
Trip’s been there first and is wearing the T-shirt; it is the
only travel website that can boast the sheer scale of over
150 million reviews and opinions and more than a quarter
of a billion people visiting the site every month.
Now all that’s very, very impressive. And I, as both a
traveller and once, for a short time, holiday destination
manager, am one of the sixty million members.
I’ve reviewed hotels, booked holidays based on the
appraisals of others and waited excitedly, or anxiously,
depending on the individual’s experience or expectation
home and upload their opinions as to the establishment I
was running (if they hadn’t done it already, courtesy of my
wifi, from their holiday verandahs as they either took in the
view or let their feelings on a particular member of staff be
known ...) but, and it is a big But, how can those review be
trusted? Are they fair? Or sabotage?
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