And, lately, hotel review sites have come in for some new criticisms. For example, Anita Dunham-Potter writes on Tripso that the Royal Champions, a group of frequent cruisers who are prolific in their cruise reviews, actually was organized and wooed by Royal Caribbean. And, Edward Hasbrouk's The Practical Nomad blog takes on the Champions' cruise-line champions, Royal Caribbean, as well.
Meanwhile, Arthur Frommer's blog discusses a report that claims a Scottish tourism board is coaching hotels on how to submit favorable reviews to TripAdvisor.
So, against this backdrop, I just read recommendations by Sam Shank, the founder of TravelPost.com and current CEO of DealBase.com, on how Kayak, which owns TravelPost, might unseat TripAdvisor as the dominant player in the hotel-review sphere. Well, Shank seems like a smart guy with a lot of good ideas, but one recommendation seemed fairly shocking and off-base, given the credibility beating that hotel-review sites are taking these days.
In the Up Take Travel Industry News blog and in further detail on his own DealBase blog, Shank suggests that Kayak start giving TravelPost's frequent hotel-reviewers a revenue share of ads that appear on their review pages. Other review sites, like HubPages, already pay "royalties" to reviewers, he notes.
Well, I think paying hotel guests for reviews is a royally bad idea. You've heard of pay to play? Well, this borders on play to stay.
Hotel reviews should be genuine, heart-felt or rant-inspired and devoid of commercialism. I want the reviewer's honest assessment of whether the room smelled of smoke or the reception-desk folks had their snoots in the air.
After all, in his posts, Shank criticizes TripAdvisor as being too commercial, cluttering up the works with too many ads, and being saddled with conflicts of interest because TripAdvisor is owned by Expedia.
Would there be any conflicts if TravelPost reviewers started churning out reviews just to keep the ad dollars rolling in?
If I wanted to read a professional hotel-reviewer's angle on the latest W Hotel in Miami or any other property, I'd read Travel + Leisure.
Kayak and its TravelPost unit, which are aggregating hotel reviews from around the Web, appear well on their way to making the hotel-review arena much more interesting.
But, paying for citizens' reviews just ain't the way to go.