In a bygone, less technological era, people planned for trips by sending off for colourful brochures or listening to firsthand reviews from friends or family members.
There always was the chance of a "dud." The photos in some of those brochures could be a dozen years old, and reality a bit tattered and threadbare. It also is possible for one person's nirvana to be another's nightmare, given that people enjoy different experiences and settings.
Today, people look for travel info the same way they search out everything else – on the Internet, more often than not with a smartphone app. Oodles are available, allowing travellers, diners and shoppers to share and rate their experiences at hotels, restaurants, attractions and stores.
They have caused strife. Some businesses have taken legal action over bad reviews.
Some people have abused the system by posting negative reviews because they disagree with a proprietor's stance on political or social issues. (The Internet, and social media in particular, can be a terrible place in this polarised atmosphere full of self-important and self-righteous people bent on nailing a perceived "enemy," and neither side has clean hands.)
However, an investigative story by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, republished by USA Today, points out a potentially more sinister problem. The Journal Sentinel found that TripAdvisor, one of the most popular review websites and apps, had deleted comments by reviewers warning of problems at Mexican resorts – from power blackouts and safety issues, to actual rapes. The posts were said to be in violation of TripAdvisor's "family friendly" guidelines.
The Journal Sentinel also found that TripAdvisor has specific algorithms that determine which things appear when travellers search for information – and gets commissions from particular hotels when bookings result.
TripAdvisor told the newspaper that it's instituting a system to alert travellers to media reports of issues at venues. We doubt it will stop taking money to guide people to specific hotels and the like. It's a for-profit business that needs ad revenue to survive. (Trust us, we understand.)
The point here? Travellers should do their homework instead of clicking an app and saying "We're going there." They shouldn't stop with one review site or review. They should consider everything the places that want their business (and cash) have to say, and everything people who already have been there have to say, and make an educated guess on where to go, stay and dine on a trip.
They should understand that everything on the internet isn't true. (Novel concept, ain't it?)
And they also should be aware of the often-cited ubiquity of opinions. — The Gadsden Times, Alabama/Tribune News Service
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