TripAdvisor debuted a new review widget for hotel, restaurant, and tours and activities sites, punctuating TripAdvisor’s years-in-the-making evolution from impartial provider of user-generated reviews to — increasingly — hotel marketer.

Yes, TripAdvisor still provides guest-written reviews, warts and all, but with the new Rave Review widget, certain “qualified websites” can showcase on their own sites just one glowing TripAdvisor review at a time, and that review must be of the highest-rate type, a 5-star critique.

Only sites that are rated 4 or 5 stars on TripAdvisor can qualify for the raves.

For example, on the Martha’s Vineyard Tours and Transportation website homepage, visitors currently will see the TripAdvisor Rave Review widget with the owl logo in the upper right-hand corner, and crawling to the left they can read: “Excellent Tour” April 6, 2013 – A TripAdvisor Traveler Read 42 reviews of Martha’s Vineyard Tours and Transportation.

The Rave Review widget is clearly a way for a tour company, hotel or restaurant to solely put their best foot forward, with no mud attached, by singling out a catch-phrase from a 5-star TripAdvisor review on their own homepages.

All raves, no jeers

Martha’s Vineyard Tours and Transportation gets an overall 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor, and it is ranked #1 of seven activities in the Oak Bluffs section of Martha’s Vineyard.

But, the Rave Review widget won’t include the one 1-star TripAdvisor review about the company, with the headline, “Terrible…. Ron was extremely RUDE!” or the management response.

You can indeed click on the Rave Review widget on any of the participating sites, and then you’ll navigate to TripAdvisor to that particular company’s page, and you can indeed read all of the TripAdvisor reviews there.

“We feel strongly that only businesses that receive consistent praise from our community of travelers should qualify for this product,” says Stephanie Boyle, a TripAdvisor spokesperson, adding that other sites can use other types of TripAdvisor review widgets as an alternative. “The ability to display a rave review, like our other honors and awards, is something that a business must earn through success and commitment to customer satisfaction.”

TripAdvisor offers a variety of other widgets to hotels and restaurants who don’t qualify for the Rave Reviews feature.

TripAdvisor as hotel marketer

The Rave Review widget is TripAdvisor’s latest step in its multi-year path toward becoming a better marketer for hotels, leaving some to wonder whether now-public company TripAdvisor has been losing a little of its edge.

Although TripAdvisor has gazillions of hotel partners, including Four Seasons and Wyndham, for example, over the years it has also confronted vociferous critics of its user-written hotel reviews.

TripAdvisor has long had an owners center, enabling hotels to better-tout themselves on TripAdvisor, and offering a bevy of TripAdvisor marketing tools.

TripAdvisor’s hotel-marketing penchant picked up steam in 2009, when it discovered it could charge hotels subscription fees through a new product, TripAdvisor Business Listings. For the first time, Business Listings enabled hotels to place their url, telephone number, and email address within their listing on TripAdvisor so users would have an option of booking a stay on the hotel website, and not just through Expedia or Priceline, for example.

Accentuate the positive

TripAdvisor executed an IPO in late 2011 and has been on its best behavior ever since. By 2012 TripAdvisor had ceased publishing its popular annual list of the 10 “dirtiest hotels” — the one that readers loved and owners of fleabags the world over feared (and lost lawsuits over).

These days TripAdvisor is more likely to accentuate the positive with lists of the top islands worldwide or America’s Top 10 Ballparks.

TripAdvisor will not be publishing a list of America’s most disgusting ballparks or hotels anytime soon.

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor's Rave Review widget on the Martha's Vineyard Tours and Transportation website. Martha's Vineyard Tours and Transportation