Travel reviews website TripAdvisor has launched a new badge notifying users that they may want to do more research about the hotel or resort they're looking at. "TripAdvisor has been made aware of recent media reports or events concerning this property which may not be reflected in reviews found on this listing," the notification says. "Accordingly, you may wish to perform additional research for information about this property when making your travel plans." The company promised to launch the badge after a report revealed that it deleted several users' reviews warning others of rape and assault that allegedly happened over the years in some of the highest-rated resorts on the website.
A spokesperson said the badges will decorate establishments' pages for up to three months. "However, if the issues persist [they] may extend the duration of the badge." He also clarified that the "badges are intended to be informative, not punitive."
While the warning labels don't specify what kind of intrigues the establishments are involved in, the company seems to have tagged the Mexican resorts specified in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's exposé.
One of the people whose reviews were deleted told the Journal Sentinel that he was drugged and sexually assaulted by a massage therapist at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya. The publication's report, however, focused on Iberostar Paraiso: at least three women said they were raped in the resort's premises. Kristie Love from Dallas said she was raped by an Iberostar security guard in 2010, but staff refused to call in authorities. When nothing came of her complaint, she posted a warning on TripAdvisor, but it was promptly deleted. Jamie Valeri, who also said she was raped in the resort complex five years later, pointed out that if the website didn't delete Love's review, she might not have gone there at all. TripAdvisor also removed her posts warning other users about her experience.
After facing a massive backlash from those revelations, the company republished Love's review and released a statement explaining that it had tighter rules when she submitted it. CEO Steve Kaufer also said the company had apologized to her, but it looks like TripAdvisor's apology was the publicly released statement itself -- she said she never received a single phone call or email from the company.
In addition to launching warning badges, TripAdvisor also tweaked its confusing "hearsay" policy. Most of the people Journal Sentinel interviewed were told that their reviews were removed, because they were merely "hearsay" despite posting about what happened to them personally. Now, the website has incorporated changes in an effort to be more clear "about the reasons [a deleted] review doesn't meet guidelines and what part of it is in violation."