The purpose of this post is to record these events and facts to do with our ranking on TripAdvisor.  I try to be a positive person, always looking for the silver lining behind the cloud and encouraging everyone else to do the same.  This is going to be a rambling post so you might like to get a cup of coffee if you’re sticking with me to the end 🙂

When I get hit with a problem I look at it, do what I can do and then focus on the solution or try to distract myself entirely from the issue – letting up to God/Universe whatever to sort it out for me if I have no more control over it.  So writing this to get it off my chest (so to speak) and also because I thought this issue was sorted in June 2018 but now it is reoccurring and will most likely reoccur again.  But I am not going through this again – so here is the story.

TripAdvisor is something I have no control over.  A business cannot choose to be deleted from TripAdvisor – did you know that?

And anyone can submit a review about a business that is not listed and TripAdvisor will list it.  Did you know that?  The business owner/manager has no say.

There is an exception which I discovered on the Owners’ forum though to the new listing situation.  This is the impression I am getting from the question and answers I saw there.  There are people looking to list tour businessess so they can get reviews.  They can’t get listed on TripAdvisor unless they are previously listed on VIATOR.

VIATOR is one of the other companies that TripAdvisor owns.  You register your tour business there, someone makes a booking.  Viator gets the commission.

Quite apart from not having a choice as to whether your business is on TripAdvisor – we are treating abysmally by TripAdvisor.  We are merely the commodity they profit from – human slaves, if you put it another way.  We are the ones who get up everyday and run the hotels, meet the guests, do the daily chores.  TripAdvisor and their associated online hotel booking engines cream off the profit.

According to Wikipedia in 2015 TripAdvisor’s revenue came in at $1.492 BILLION dollars with 3008 employees worldwide.

On TripAdvisor owners have a business dashboard and our only way to contact TripAdvisor with a problem is through a form there. The form has limited options.  If your problem doesn’t fit the option you’re out of luck.

On Monday I had two emails returned saying unread because the issue was closed – before I even  started the door was closed.

We have an owners’ forum and the questions and problems listed there are appalling – many having problems with malicious reviews – the worst thing there is that it’s hit and miss if a staff member answers your post.  There are people answering there (same ones all the time) and their answers are mostly pathetic and of no help to the person with the problem.  I posted my problem there and one of those jackassess quoted rubbish from TripAdvisor and did not appear to have followed the logic of my argument at all because he ignored it – twice.  He/she seems to be one of those people with tons of time, nothing to do and an expert in everything.  Yes, that’s me being vindictive and nasty!

For anyone who does not know the background to TripAdvisor – it began in 2000 and quickly became famous as an independent, impartial platform where travellers could leave reviews on their hotel experiences.  Please google it and check out wikipedia if you want to see what other companies they own.  I am writing this to tell you why this is no longer the case – just for anyone who doesn’t know.

Mara House has always done well on TripAdvisor, at one stage reaching number 1.  Even during the years 2011 to 2014 we managed to slip no lower than number 4.  Around 2015/16 sometime Mara House plummeted overnight to about 12 I think it was.  TripAdvisor changed its algorithm and it seemed to be all the hotels that were bookable through their affiliated hotels rose to the top.  Nothing to do about that.

Tourism made a good recovery in 2017 and thanks to the people who wrote reviews for us and probably TripAdvisor changed their algorithm again, I woke one morning to be told Mara House was back up at number 2.

My current problem

A wonderful, wonderful lady (Eileen thank you so much) forwarded me an email she got Monday morning from TripAdvisor saying the review she wrote for me in June (almost 5 months ago) appears to be for a non-listed business etc. etc.  That business was Mara House.  So they asked her to resubmit her review.  I told her not to bother.  She met the guidelines the first time, why should she do it again 5 months later.  Other guests have contacted me to tell me the same story.

They deleted Eileen’s review plus about 9 or 10 more on Monday.  Prior to deletion Mara House had 442 reviews, then they started deleting, then I got a new review… – check how many there now!!  All this without contacting me.  What would be the consequence of this the next time the algorithm runs?  Naturally with even 9 great, detailed reviews missing, Mara House has to drop down the ranking.  This morning Wed there are more deletions.  Morally, should TripAdvisor had a chat with me before taking such drastic action?  If I were depending on TripAdvisor for business what effect could that have?

So, how did all this come about?

In May 2018 Mara House got a bad review, an unfair one and I won’t go into the details.   I asked TripAdvisor to remove it based on the fact they had til now been deleting reviews from my guests because the guest said too much about other parts of the package they bought and not enough emphasis on Mara House – or they were on one of my group packages which doesn’t stay at Mara House.  The lady who wrote the negative review had been on a group tour but not been to Mara House.

This is the reply I received on 1 June to that request.

“We understand how important it is for you to remove the said review; however, TripAdvisor is an open platform for people to express their opinions. As a result we do allow reviews of incidents, events and experiences with business, as well as anything that happened during their time with you. While this traveler did not actually spend any time with you, he or she did have an encounter with someone representing your business. We do allow travelers to review their customer service experience, as it is helpful information for future guests and provides a holistic view of businesses listed on TripAdvisor.”

Will you read that quote again please, please?  Does it not say that ANYONE who has ANY TYPE of service experience with a business can write a review and it will be allowed?   If that is not what it says then I must be losing my mind.  Am I?  To add to this, several years ago someone put up a review based on my bad manner of reply to their ENQUIRY and I got the same answer.

Now, if some who comes into ANY KIND of Service Contact with Mara House is allowed to post a NEGATIVE review, does it not also stand that anyone who has spent 3 to 11 days of CONSTANT service contact should be allowed to post a review?  Or again, am I gone mad?

Let me clarify here that the tours are not a separate business.

  • I only offer accommodation incl tours at Mara House.
  • I don’t sell the tours to guest who don’t stay at Mara House.
  • I don’t want to set up a separate tour company selling tours.
  • I don’t want to go on VIATOR and pay commission for sales through them.
  • Mara House is not listed with any online booking engine and I don’t want to be even though they all come up offering you the chance to book Mara House through them if you do a google search.  They just use all the hotel names to trick you into going to their sites.  Morally wrong but who is going to make them stop?  Not google.
  • I don’t want to pay up to 60% to have Mara House pushed in the faces of travelers doing online searches for hotels.

The owner’s forum on TripAdvisor is rife with the same problem.  But then is 3008 staff worldwide enough to cope with the problems of every hotel on TripAdvisor and now they are expanding their scope?  Who is suffering here?  Only the hotel owner/manager and the employees who can end up out of jobs because of the effects of  TripAdvisor reviews.

To end my personal experience on this – Since Monday I have contacted TripAdvisor though the dashboard email system, through Twitter and through Facebook by starting two threads aimed at them.  A pop-up on Facebook kept asking me to message them directly –  I did that too.  I spammed the owners’ forum (that’s how I read so many problems there) in an effort to get TripAdvisor’s attention.  This morning on the forum I saw a staff member had answered a question posted later than mine (maybe 10 posts between us) so I copied my post in reply to her.  Got no answer or reaction from anyone.

Before I started writing this I went to google to get some background info re when was TripAdvisor started etc and THERE WAS A PHONE NUMBER THERE!!!  And since I am in the US just now I called it.  Having followed a few false trails there and been directed to submit my problem back on the owners dashboard,  I finally made it through the maze and connected with a human being, a lady!  Wow! Success I thought!  Well, not really.  She was a polite, well-trained call answering person who listened to my logical explanation and pulled up my file.  She apologised for the lack of response.  The bottom line?  All she could do was pass on my message.  She did.  I got an email asking me to send a screen shot of Eileen’s email from TripAdvisor.  I did.  I got a second email back telling me to ask the guests who had already been contacted to contact TripAdvisor and resubmit their reviews.

My answer – not my job and, no way would I bother someone several months later asking them to resubmit a review written months ago.  From today I will not be asking anyone to write a review on TripAdvisor for me.  Mara House will do just fine without TripAdvisor.  We will do well on the personal recommendations of our friends, followers and guests.  Like the booking engines I am bowing out of that circus and trusting the quality of our service with the help of God/Universe to see us through and help Mara House not only survive but thrive.  Linkedin was where most people recommended me originally and I will return to ask for reviews there.  Google search is also very nice to us 🙂

This blog is not going to change the world or even persuade anyone not to use online booking engines because that is the way the world is going.  We all want the quick and easy solution.  I do want you to do the following though:

  • Next time you do a hotel search on a booking engine – notice the list that comes up for you is something like
    • Top Picks or
    • Just for you!
  • Notice the other options including the “review score” or the “Ranked by Review”
  • Remember the ones that come up first for you are the ones paying the highest commission to be offered to you first.
  • Read the review list and contact the hotel of your choice – ask if they can give you a better deal than the booking engine.  You could be lucky.  Of course the booking engines have a penalty clause in the contract with the hotel of consequences if they are not giving the engine the lowest prices so…

The thing is these booking engines started out so nice and so cheaply for the hotels – just 10% across the board was what it cost all hotels so everyone was on a level playing field.  Now the decks are stacked against the hotel/guest house providers who can’t afford the commissions and who, even if they do sign up, if they don’t pay the higher rates they don’t get the same start as the ones that do.

If there is any journalist out there looking for an expose/factual article to write then I recommend he/she has a chat with ANY hotel owner across the globe and find out their experiences as a starting point.

If there is any solicitor/attorney out there interested in taking this to court for me on a “no win, no fee” basis based on that June 1 email from TripAdvisor, please contact me on maraegypt@gmail.com

I’m done now and going to put all this to the back of my mind.   If you stayed with me til now, thank you for your time and attention.  I’ve written this without revision and I am not going to go back and make it better – not spending any more energy on this.  Gotta go and make a good day for myself now and I hope you have a wonderful day too.

24.10.2018 Update at 16.13 a friend just contacted me to say the number of reviews is now down to 430 from 443 and TripAdvisor are covering their ass by removing the negative review that they left stand in June for which they sent me the June 1 email.  Wonder if all the other hotel owners are going to benefit from the negative reviews they are complaining about on the owners’ forum….

25.10.2018 at 6.36 I have just changed my description on TripAdvisor to request guests NOT to leave any more reviews for Mara House there.  Yes, this means the slide down the ranking scale will be faster.  But I am one of those people who stand on principle and I will not be held to ransom by a faceless corporate entity.  Yes, probably I am no match for them but…remember when the Dunnes Stores workers in Ireland boycotted South African goods in a protest against apartheid?  It took 2 years but look what they achieved.  TripAdvisor’s purpose is to gather reviews – without them they are nothing.  This is not the end of the story – keep in touch 🙂

Mara

Owner at Mara House Hotel Luxor
Hi - I'm Mara (Marie Vaughan) from Ireland...my aim is to be the best at what I do - not the cheapest so please do not compare Mara House products with others based on price...compare us on quality of service.

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2 Comments

  1. Eileen Weed 24 Oct 2018 24/10/2018 at 7:47 pm

    Glad to help with keeping you in the loop, Mara. I’m feeling mad about the situation of TripAdvisor’s market manipulation so I’ll try to be brief and then leave it be too. I feel like sceaming in frustration that they can suddenly delete so many positive reviews for no reason, and sad you have to deal with this! Their pathetic and unhelpful response is beyond frustrating. Also it is shocking to hear that tours can’t be added now unless they are on Viator! I never booked with them, always got a bad feeling and instead always book direct with the business.

    I do hours of Google searches and only go to TripAdvisor after I whiddle down choices. Like you said, good thing Google is good to Mara House, where I found you, felt the positive vibes and then nothing else compared! So glad I could fulfill my lifelong dream of visiting Egypt with you, it went above and beyond expectations!

     
  2. Marivie 24 Oct 2018 24/10/2018 at 5:46 pm

    Read your entire blog. Amazed at your determination- way to go. Brought entire family to Luxor (6pax) on a last minute idea. I googled and found Mara House- took me one whole day, by night time you linked me up with Ahmed. 5 glorious days. God has blessed you with this gift. Praying you have more succesd. Praying too that one day we will come to visit Luxor once more.

    Travelled as family Jan 2018 Luxor Holidays

     

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