Skift Take

Some hotels see TripAdvisor as an adversary, and that's especially true of those that felt the wrath of negative reviews. In recent years, TripAdvisor has worked closer with hotels, or perhaps hotels have just come to accept founder Steve Kaufer's underlying message to the industry: "Adapt or die."

In response to hotel owners’ request for a fresh start following major renovations, TripAdvisor added a review removal policy last October, and updated the policy for clarity in July 2013.

The odds are big for hotels: In exchange for proof of major renovations, a hotel’s old reviews are wiped clean — a fresh start.

Hotels must produce proof of structural changes including the installation of new guest rooms or bathrooms, alterations to hotel layout, or complete property overhauls. Cosmetic changes like new paint or curtains do not count.

According to TripAdvisor’s Help Center (screenshot embedded below), hotels need to provide building permits, materials invoices, or press releases to prove that the renovations were indeed structural and completed.

TripAdvisor: Reporting major renovation

All old reviews are then deleted from the live site and cannot be accessed by travelers or hoteliers. Any removed reviews are no longer factored into the hotel’s Popularity Index.

Hotels essentially start back at zero with a clean slate and any comment about bed bugs, rude staff, or disruptions from ongoing renovations never happened as far as new customers can tell.

“We understand that as part of running a successful hospitality business, sometimes significant renovations are made in an effort to modernize or simply remodel an establishment,” TripAdvisor spokeswoman Alison Croyle told Skift.

“With this in mind, TripAdvisor will remove a property’s reviews and photos that were posted prior to completion of a major renovation.”

TripAdvisor will also remove old reviews if a property moves between two major flags or brands. For example, if a Westin in Paris becomes part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection, no one will know of its Starwood past.

But the largesse does not extend past construction and branding changes: A simple management change, even if it results in improved customer relations or operations, does not warrant the removal of reviews.

A Successful Restart

One look at Minneapolis’ Millennium Hotel on TripAdvisor today and you would never know it spent the first five months of this year closed for a much needed $22.5 million renovation.

The reviews noting the property’s smooth and pleasant check-in process, contemporary clean rooms, and great value are very different from those that called the hotel “dirty” and “old” one year ago.

The hotel sent TripAdvisor the entire scope of its work plan once it closed for renovations, says Ryan Walker, the Director of E-Commerce for Millennium Hotels and Resorts. A TripAdvisor staffer responded that they had opened a case, but reviews would not be removed until the hotel reopened and new photos were provided.

In that time, the hotel’s entire lobby was expanded and redesigned, 321 guest rooms were renovated, public bathrooms were redesigned, and the fitness area gained some 700 square feet. Only the hotel’s TVs, which were bought one year earlier, remained untouched.

After the hotel reopened and provided proof of its renovations, there was a one to two week wait before TripAdvisor removed all reviews. TripAdvisor wiped the hotel’s slate clean, but its ranking relative to competitors hardly changed.

“With only one or two reviews, we’re going to fall to the bottom of our competitive set. TripAdvisor needs a quantity of reviews to move you up,” explains Walker.

“In the last month, we’ve noticed an exponential rise in our competitive set as we consistently gain new reviews. That was frustrating for the team at first, but I don’t think it matters to the guest.”

Millennium Hotel Minneapolis ranked in the bottom quarter of its competitive set prior to the renovations and TripAdvisor refresh. It is now ranked number ten out of 49 hotels in Minneapolis.

Jenny Stimler, Director of Sales and Marketing, believes the hotel’s closure helped make Millennium’s case to TripAdvisor.

Stimler says, “[TripAdvisor] is a source that everyone really goes to these days. We have to put the right pictures and the data information so they can research pre-stay.”

Hotels’ Previous Status Are Not Indicated

TripAvisor makes no note on hotels’ pages that recently rebooted their TripAdvisor history, although many properties will add ‘renovated’ to their page headline.

There’s room for improvement here since TripAdvisor users could be confused to find reviews dating back only a few months for a property they visited years ago.

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Tags: redesign, reviews, tripadvisor

Photo credit: The redesigned Standard room with two double beds at the Millennium Hotel Minneapolis. Millennium Hotel Minneapolis / Millennium Hotel Minneapolis

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