23 May THE TRIPADVISOR TAGS AND FLAGS FOR CRIME
Following significant pressure, TripAdvisor, the largest travel review site in the world, announced on Tuesday that it was making it easier for users to become aware of the serious risks and reported crimes at hotels listed on its site.
The two new safety features enhance their search function capability by allowing users to filter establishments where cases of sexual assault and misconduct have been reported using a safety filter, and to create an alert banner at the top of these reviews.
The safety filter enables users to search for reviews, in 28 languages, which have been posted during the past year concerning sexual misconduct by employees of the listed establishment. Other categories reported by TripAdvisor include the death, drugs, assault, trafficking, and armed robbery. Although TripAdvisor states that it reports these additional categories, all Traveller Safety Reviews within the new safety filter currently highlight only those relating to sexual misconduct. For all other crimes, travellers are still required to manually search for reviews by eye.
For almost a decade, TripAdvisor have been persistently accused of not doing enough to highlight the reported dangers associated with hotels. In 2017, this was triggered following an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper that found that the website had repeatedly deleted a post in 2010 by a Texas woman alleging she had been raped by a hotel security guard at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya resort because it violated the company’s “family-friendly” policy. Immediately following the investigation, TripAdvisor announced changes to its censoring and removal of reviews in addition to unveiling tags and warning badges which were designed to identify health, discrimination and safety issues. Nevertheless, only sixteen months later in March 2019, The Guardian released an article containing information that hotels at the centre of sexual assault allegations were continuing to be promoted on the site, despite complainants contacting the travel company to warn them of alleged attacks by staff members.
Since March, the pressure has been on TripAdvisor to make effective changes to their warning systems and handling of complaints. This has resulted in the most recent announcement earlier this week and changes to their user experience. Raising issues relating to security to the 456 million people visiting the site every month is progress however the removal of posts continues to remain a serious concern, filters highlighting only sexual assaults and only those by employees is exceptionally restrictive in scope, and the limitation to highlight events which only occurred within the past year can also be seen as a small step rather than the leap required to drive change. Empowering travellers to make informed travel decisions and holding hotels accountable for the crimes that take place on, or are enabled by, their establishments is a key driving force behind Global Secure Accreditation, and as such we support the steps implemented by TripAdvisor. Only time will tell however if the changes do enough to warn travellers about the safety concerns raised by others.