TripAdvisor (trip) has been accused of hiding serious warnings about dangerous destinations on the basis that the reviews were not “family friendly.”
As initially reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, an American woman named Kristie Love was raped by a security guard at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya resort in Mexico seven years ago. When the hotel staff refused to call the police, she said, she tried warning other travelers in a TripAdvisor review—only to see her review swiftly taken down every time she posted it.
The travel website said the review was not family-friendly. Now, all those years later, it has apologized and allowed her review onto the site. According to CBS News, at least one other woman was sexually assaulted at the same resort in the interim.
“We are horrified that [Love] experienced this assault on her vacation in Mexico, and other travelers should be aware of this incident,” TripAdvisor said, claiming that its policies and procedures have evolved since 2010, and that it was creating a notification system to warn about health and safety or discrimination issues at businesses.
The reports detailed other examples of people having their warnings of sexual assault at Mexican resorts taken down on the same basis as Love’s, or because the website claimed they were second-hand information.
Phoenix resident Wendy Avery-Swanson told the Journal Sentinel that TripAdvisor had claimed her review, detailing how she blacked out after being served tainted alcohol, was hearsay. “It actually happened to me,” she said.
TripAdvisor makes its money when people book hotels through its site. As the Journal Sentinel reported, the site does not disclose how it selects users who are granted special privileges to take down forum posts—and it doesn’t say how many negative reviews it removes. The average rating for hotels on the platform is 4 out of 5.
Under TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking system, hotel owners pay the platform either 12% or 15% in commission. If they pay the higher rate, they get to handle half the bookings that come through TripAdvisor, with the rest going to other online travel agents who participate in the program. If they pay 12%, they only get to handle a quarter of the bookings.