15 August 2009

US Travel Weekly Steps Into Trust Battle

Travel Weekly (US)’s corporate parent Northstar Media has stepped into the fray of trust with a provocative email entitled “Can you trust Consumer Reviews”.

It is extolling a platform for Travel Industry peers to create their own reviews (on TW’s environment of course). So while I agree that Consumer input on sites such as Trip Advisor has been subject to Fraud and other general nefarious bad things – they are just that – consumer thoughts. However does that make them any the less valuable? Further are Agent or Travel Industry reviews any more reliable and trust worthy?

Frankly I have always felt that the Travel Industry ability to sugar coat things in sickly syrupy bad PR was an art form. The infamous Ocean View (standing on the wardrobe when the tide was high and in the middle of a tidal wave) embellishment should give the world no more credibility than a disgruntled guest or a self promoting supplier.

Indeed neither sectors are immune from self interest. However the idea that Agents are better at expressing quality measurements than consumers doesn’t hold a lot of value.

This brings me to my core belief is that there has to be some merging of “Professional” mode opinion with the “Consumer” IE user opinion. However how to merge the 2 cannot be easily brought together in harmony.

When someone sorts this out – it could be useful, very useful.


1 comment:

Dennis Schaal said...

Dear Professor: I think Oyster.com is beginning to sort out the mix of "professional" and consumer reviews. I wrote about the issue twice in my blog over the weekend, but take a look at today's post. http://bit.ly/zV7cS

That being said, Oyster.com offers journalists' hotel reviews and not reviews by travel agents. But, it is blending the journalists reviews with consumer reviews, which are not anonymous. On Oyster.com, the consumers have to log-in through Facebook Connect, thus ensuring we know something of the reviewer unless he or she has gone to the trouble of creating a fake Facebook account.

Requiring the use of Facebook Connect has its limitations, of course.

However, I prefer this approach to that of U.S. Travel Weekly's, of which I am affiliated as a freelancer. Actually, it is the parent company of Travel Weekly, Northstar Travel Media, which is trashing consumer reviews through its Star Service and through Travel Weekly sister company Professional Travel Guide.

Hey, let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Consumer-written reviews add value, as do the professional reviews seen through the Star Service and PTG.

Neither professional reviews nor consumer reviews are the end-all and be-all.

Let's shore up the integrity of consumer reviews, as Oyster.com is doing with Facebook Connect, and other online travel companies like Priceline.com are attempting to do by only accepting traveler reviews after they have completed their stay at the property under review.

Professional reviews alone are not a solution, at all.