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Is TripAdvisor responsible for closing hundreds of British hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs or has the industry got it knickers in an unnecessary twist?

Channel 4's Attack of the Trip Advisors gave plenty of insights for hoteliers ready to embrace the website

Last night’s Attack of the TripAdvisors documentary on Channel 4 pitched a range of hotliers against a modern army of TripAdvisor reviewers. But delve below the mix of personalities on show and there weren’t any startling insights here.

Each story highlighted a particular insight, so taking them one at a time, here’s what I think property owners can learn from last night’s programme.

Old Forge B&B, Norfolk

First up was the Old Forge B&B in Norfolk. We saw the owners in their full Fawlty Towers eccentricity (complete with straight-legged German marching and Spanish waiter) picking over their reviews in obvious distress.

But the reality of their situation is very different: 39 reviews on TripAdvisor with an average score of 4.5 out of 5, with 28 excellent reviews and only 4 terrible or poor reviews – not a bad return at all.

Rather than bemoaning the website these hoteliers should be deciding how to make the most of their excellent scores to bring more business in.

Mark and Stuart and the Eltemere Inn

Hotelier Mark agreed to be reviewed by Stuart during the latter’s stay. This was set up as a clash of personalities, with posh Mark declaring before sweary Stuart’s arrival that if he was driving a Jag they were likely to get on, but if he rolled up in a battered Corsa they wouldn’t. Guess which of the two Stuart drives.

Both looked up for a fight and sure enough the two clashed – with reviewer Stuart criticising Mark’s taste in art and decoration. But – and this was a point made by another reviewer later in the show – it’s impossible to please everyone, so stop trying.

Mark clearly wasn’t aiming his hotel at the market Stuart represents, and with 50 excellent reviews out of 88 and an overall average score of 4 out of 5, he has many fans who loved their experience.

Ricky the Reviewer

Ricky was the David Brent of reviewers, pinching sachets of sugar and putting pen marks on sheets to see how quickly they were replaced. Of course his requirement for a daily change of linen (“I have a skin condition”) wasn’t met – but how many hotels change sheets for the same guests on a daily basis?

Hotels have the right of response on TripAdvisor and a small number of oddball reviews should not be feared. Reply to them fairly and factually and they’ll be seen by most people for that they are – eccentric viewpoints that should be ignored.

The Hollies, St Ives

The final featured guest house is another that actually scores quite well on TripAdvisor, with an average rating of 4 out of 5 from 77 reviews, 48 “excellent” reviews and 8 “terrible” or “poor” reviews.

This hotelier was particularly upset with some personal criticisms which were posted by a problem guest who had argued with the owners. The couple at the Old Forge (the first property featured) felt similarly strongly about a 1-star review they had received criticising their cooking.

In both cases, the hoteliers were giving weight to a tiny minority of bad reviews over the huge majority of good comments and instead of bullishly focusing and promoting the positives they were bogged down by the personal comments.

What can property owners takes away from Attack of the TripAdvisors?

  • Promote the positives: TripAdvisor features good reviews as well as bad. Take note of the criticisms and address them if they’re fair, but promote the positives too.
  • Know your market: Don’t assume all reviewers are the same as you. People have different, tastes, standards and expectations. Know your market and focus on making sure your product is right for them.
  • Ignore the oddballs: There are plenty of nutters out there – ignore them. Their reviews will be eccentric and they’ll be seen for what they are.
  • Keep calm: If you reply aggressively or arrogantly future customers will pick that up, so always respond calmly, clearly and fairly.
  • Accept TripAdvisor is important: There’s a reason why 26 businesses are reviewed every minute on TripAdvisor – it’s because people want to share their comments and read the reviews of other. It’s a good thing so embrace it.

“Attack of the Trip Advisors” was shown on Channel 4 on 31 October and is available at channel4.com.