Pressing the Reset Button on TripAdvisor

For a hotel with less-than-desirable TripAdvisor reviews, a major renovation could offer a quick ticket to improving its online reputation. In July of last year, TripAdvisor updated its review removal policy to give hotels the opportunity to wipe out old reviews once they’ve completed large-scale transformation projects. “It really has to be a substantial overhaul,” says Brian Payea, head of industry relations at the online travel review site. “It’s not new finishes and new carpet. It has to touch the majority of the property.”

The policy was put in place to give hotels that truly offer a new guest experience a clean slate—especially with travelers who have never visited the property and are coming to read reviews for the first time, Payea explains. “We recognized in conversations with properties that the old reviews weren’t going to provide much value to travelers and really wouldn’t represent the hotel.”

Once a hotel completes a renovation and contacts TripAdvisor to get the old reviews removed, a moderation team assesses the project. Hotel owners and operators are required to share documents—building and work permits, invoices for materials and labor, notarized letters from city or tourism officials, and photos and press releases—that show the scope of the renovation. “The process does end up being subjective,” Payea says. “We can’t put a dollar value on it. There is an evaluation of the before and the after.”


But hotels considering the review-removal process have to be 100 percent sure it’s what they want. They can’t weed out negative reviews and keep positive ones they racked up over the years. All reviews will be permanently deleted, which may impact the property’s listing on TripAdvisor’s popularity index. Once reviews are removed and the count is set back to zero, the ranking of a property will likely drop. However, Payea says hotels that truly provide a different experience after a major renovation can rapidly move up in the ranks as positive reviews get attached to the property.

If hotels do decide to start from scratch following a renovation, Payea reminds owners to update other portions of their TripAdvisor profiles—the description, photos, and amenities—to reflect the changes. “If there are new reviews that are going to be describing a different experience, everything should work together.”

Photo credit: 3D Plan via BigStock

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