Thursday, March 8, 2012

Are Moteliers Out Of Step?

Moteliers have yet again proven that they are out of step by publicly grizzling about Tourism New Zealand's decision to include TripAdvisor guest reviews on their website listings.

We were interested to see that a New Zealand Herald article quoting a well known Taradale motelier that alleged that "a disgruntled guest who accused him of lying over a payment dispute arranged for two friends to write bad reviews." On the face of it, this supports sensational claims that TripAdvisor is used as a tool for guests to blackmail and post malicious reviews....Another view could be that the review(s) in this case could have been the harsh consequence of the motelier not disclosing tariff clearly and ineptly dealing with customer complaints?

Unlike many of our fellow moteliers, we side with industry writer and consultant James Hacon that "saw Tourism New Zealand's decision as positive, and said that national tourism agencies across the world were aligning themselves with TripAdvisor. "You just have to look at it on a global scale - it's a hugely growing trend that people are looking at reviews before they travel."

The motel industry needs to distance itself from the imagery of operators that are naive, grumpy old men that are flustered and disconnected with the changes in technology and the demands of today's consumer.

The internet is probably the only free market still in operation, that remains largely untainted by government intervention. On the internet, the beautiful aspects of human nature manifest themselves, and we see individuals and businesses maximising talents and resources for reasons of profit, pleasure, altruism, and mere progress in itself.

Like the internet itself, TripAdvisor's open platform that allows "unverified" reviews to be posted by anonymous users isn't perfect and this a scary proposition for some. Business's online reputations will always be reflected online in one way or another. Businesses are unable to fight against online opinion, as they can never opt-out.

The only option is to actively participate, understand and when necessary, make changes to business practices in response to real-time online feedback. Instead of enabling grizzly old-men, the national trade association should lead education in this area and more importantly strive to change the attitudes of its followers.

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