Tripadvisor and Its New Algorithm
For a change, over the last month it has been TripAdvisor that has been upsetting BedPosts members big time, not Booking.com. They have introduced a new algorithm to control and rate guest reviews, leaving members’ rankings up, down, constantly fluctuating, four blobs among the five blobs. As some of the quotes I have included show, some of our fellows in the trade are getting quite dispirited with the inconsistency.
“Seems to me that we are getting so tired of the daily struggle, with all today’s technology and commission issues, as mentioned by quite a few of us on here. The nice part about meeting interesting people and sharing your home with them has been overtaken with all the frustrations that the likes of TA and OTAs have given us. What will this trade look like in 10 years?” An answer came quickly –
“I don’t think there will be many traditional B&Bs left in 10 years time. Expectations (of guests) are getting higher and they expect Ritz facilities at a rock-bottom price. B.com guests are the most critical; we frequently get marked down for value though we charge £40 pppn, including full breakfast. Lots of extras in the rooms including generous toiletries, bottled water and chocolates, nice biscuits and a well-stocked hospitality tray. We are now leaving the bottled water and chocs out of the B.com rooms as we are paying £12 commission on a double room booked via them. Every time I see we have a new TA review, my heart sinks into my boots, wondering what we did wrong this time, even though the vast majority of our reviews are good or excellent (I always expect the worse). We all put our hearts and soul into our businesses and every nasty review is a knife to the heart. The effect is cumulative. You need a hide like a rhino to survive in this business.”
There is a connection between the above opinion, about not many traditional B&Bs being left in 10 years time, and a recent report on Airbnb in Australia. It seems that in many areas, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, that’s Sydney and Melbourne, numerous B&B properties are for sale and many are going cheap as the owners are desperate to sell. The simple reason is that they cannot compete with all the Airbnb offerings. Airbnb is now getting big in India, among many other countries. Authorities in Berlin are considering severe financial penalties for those who let whole properties on the site as opposed to the odd room or two. The warning signs are there for us in the UK – a further example of this is airsorted.uk, a room valuation and management service for Airbnb properties, currently operating in London and Edinburgh.
ONLINE AGENCIES AND RATE PARITY
The latest report from the EU on this subject, as widely reported last month, is from the Committee that reports on Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market. The concern that the Committee has is that various countries are treating rate parity in different ways, which might be confusing for cross-border travellers. France has taken a much bolder position against Rate Parity as has Germany. Our Government to some extent ‘rolled over’. This is the crucial bit, the EU says –
“We recommend that the Competition and Markets Authority urgently order a market investigation into the online travel agent sector. This investigation should consider the extent to which banning wide parity clauses has been effective, claims that online travel agents continue to prevent suppliers from offering other online travel agents a lower price, and other misleading practices alleged against online travel agents, including the creation of ‘shell websites’. As this is a Europe-wide issue, we recommend that the Commission support this investigation and co-ordinate any related activity by other National Competition Authorities.”
This attracted some attention on the forum, both the approving: “Assuming therefore that we remain in the EU, there is a better than average chance that the OTAs and their much loved parity contracts will have a harder time in the UK, as they now do in France and Germany.” and also the sceptical “Another 5-10 years should see a decision to appoint a committee to decide upon the agenda for a committee to decide if the problem really should be looked at.” As last autumn the CMA decided to stop any further investigation into this, opting instead for ongoing monitoring of the market, hopes should not be raised.
This situation could, it may be surmised, affect voting in June’s referendum. One member posted this telling view – “To me this was the real problem with Rate Parity. It was / is anti-competitive. As I see it, Rate Parity effectively stops any new entrants to the OTA market. How our Competition Authority didn’t see it this way was beyond me (but no great surprise). I have a feeling that it is possibly too late now to make any real difference to the market. B.com has consolidated its position and I suspect that any new entrant will just get gobbled up. Who knows, it might shake up the market and bring in competition. Airbnb arrived with a different business model and would appear to be flourishing. So maybe others could if rate parity was abolished.” So there you have it – a vote to Remain in the EU may help to cut the power of OTAs and possibly their commissions!
BREXIT OR NOT
As above, the lively debate on whether to leave or remain has continued unabated on the forum. With a staycation summer forecast, opinions are generally less about economic issues more on matters such as migration and political opportunism. One viewpoint was advanced that we should vote the way that our kids want to, as it is they who will live longer with the consequences. Another view, that older people shouldn’t get a vote because of this, was less popular. This was enthusiastically discussed, with one view “Children are afraid of the dark. To them life without the EU must be like the darkness. They do not remember any time when we were not part of EU. We must explain that there was light before 1973. Our children do not always know what’s best for them and we continue to have a duty to protect them”
Voting in our poll is still heavily weighted in favour of leaving, some 63%; the rest split equally between staying and undecided.
An interesting exercise has been taking place over in America with regard to Booking.com and how people view them and what problems they experience. This has been happening through the InnSpiring forum, similar to BedPosts but without advertising and other services. This may all sound rather familiar!
So, in no particular order, innkeepers over there do not like:
- “Having to contact them through their convoluted messaging system to get something changed about a property listing, rather than being able to do it yourself through their website like you can with Airbnb and most others.”
- In similar vein, email issues. “Major problem since they went to this ‘privacy’ gimmick channelling emails through their system; 90% of those are never read as they go to the guest spam folders. Missed communications can lead to an unpleasant stay as the guest thinks we don’t care! Give us the contact info, including a phone number and guest email. Hey, dummies, we’re going to get their email address and contact info at check-in anyway, so you’re not doing anything but inconveniencing your guests when we can’t call them with last-minute weather or travel alerts.”
- “Random reservations come thru with no info – no address, no phone, no credit card.”
- Which leads to “Tech support. Get some!”
- “I have sent Booking.com this suggestion last year, a real problem, which they have pleasantly ignored. If your property is set to accept “minimum 2 nights” bookings, and someone searches for a single night – your property shows up as “no rooms available”, instead of “this property requires a longer stay”. This is misleading, unhelpful and user-unfriendly. If it were to say that a property requires a longer stay, the customer might consider a longer stay = higher commission.”
Although B.com does not have the same share of the market over there as compared to here, it is part of the enormous Priceline Group and thus appears to view itself as above petty criticisms from its partners, who are small enough to be safely ignored. On BedPosts we are looking at the things that most bug our members about B.com and would love to hear from more of you out there. So share your views, and perhaps make a difference, by joining BedPosts!
Roy McGregor on behalf of BedPosts Business Club and BedPosts forum, join us and join the conversation