“TripAdvisor blackmail” hits travel companies

Travel industry warned about growing problem

A growing trend of blackmail via online review sites like TripAdvisor is facing hotels and other tourism businesses.

The British Hospitality Association is advising hoteliers and travel companies not to respond to customers trying to get free services by threatening to post bad reviews. The issue is so serious that the association’s deputy chief executive, Martin Couchman, is in talks with TripAdvisor on how to deal with the problem.

“People threatening restaurants and hotels with bad TripAdvisor reviews to extort freebies is a problem which has been growing,” Couchman said. “While it’s very difficult to put an exact figure on how widespread the problem is, it is clear that there is a small minority of online reviewers who are either directly or indirectly blackmailing hotels and restaurants for their own gain. Even just one or two bad reviews can have huge consequences for a business’s reputation.

He added: “For example, people may attempt to blackmail during the meal. While it can be difficult to prove that somebody has held your business to ransom in this way, we would advise that business owners do not respond – or make free offers – to reviewers they suspect are malicious.”

A TripAdvisor spokesman said: “If an owner does experience this, we have tools in place to help them report it to us. Our fraud detection experts will then investigate and, where we find evidence of threatening behaviour, take action to stop their reviews from ever reaching the site.”

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