TripAdvisor VS. Expedia

January 27, 2012 on 3:07 pm | In Expedia, ThereArePlaces.com, TripAdvisor, air travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel industry, travel tips | 2 Comments

As many of you know, TripAdvisor, which was part of Expedia, was spun-out in an IPO on December 21, 2011. We found ourselves wondering what that might mean for those of you who use TripAdvisor for advice on hotels, and the like. We are not sure the news is good.

You probably know that TripAdvisor, which bills itself as the world’s largest travel site, has over 50 million unique monthly visitors and claims 20 million registered members. Due to its massive audience, it is able to publish 25 new contributions every minute and features over eight million travel photos taken by their visitors. TripAdvisor and its 18 subsidiary travel sites, operated by TripAdvisor Inc., attract more than 65 million unique monthly visitors. TripAdvisor’s subsidiaries include: www.airfarewatchdog.com, www.bookingbuddy.com, www.cruisecritic.com, www.everytrail.com, www.familyvacationcritic.com, www.flipkey.com, www.holidaylettings.co.uk, www.holidaywatchdog.com, www.independenttraveler.com, www.onetime.com, www.seatguru.com, www.sniqueaway.com, www.smartertravel.com, www.travel-library.com, www.travelpod.com, www.virtualtourist.com, www.whereivebeen.com, and www.kuxun.cn.

Of course, now that it is a stand-alone business, TripAdvisor needs a way to create revenue and does so by running ads and providing other services for its business partners. Indeed, this week TripAdvisor introduced a comprehensive Analytics Service for businesses that allow them to us a “management dashboard” to summarize the performance of their business on TripAdvisor at a glance. Hmm, we guess this specific business model means that travelers contribute independent evaluations to TripAdvisor and TripAdvisor finds a way to monetize the efforts of their visitors for the benefit of TripAdvisor. We realize that TripAdvisor need to make money, but when the companies that are TripAdvisor business customers are provided information on the ratings of their hotels or restaurants contributed by members of TripAdvisor or visitors to their websites, it feels like the contributors are being disadvantaged.

One has to presume that the reason for TripAdvisor to provide this feedback to business partners is to allow these businesses to take action and remedy ratings that do not benefit the business. Oh. Well, how will that happen? Well, honorable companies could use this information to reevaluate and improve the services they provide. Conversely, for companies looking for the quick fix might, solving the problem might be to find a way to improve the ratings without having to spend money doing so. If this case were to happen, it would appear possible that some companies could try to game the system.

Yes, we know that TripAdvisor claims to have a large number of analytical programs that root out deceptive evaluations. But the real truth here is that crowdsourced systems are just that. They reflect the crowd that is attracted to that website and the “crowd” brings all of their biases and everyday perspectives when providing an evaluation of a property or an attraction. Given the wide variety of people involved in providing evaluations at TripAdvisor, it can only be expected that reviews will evidence a wide variety of world views. Bad reviews of high-rated property or rave reviews of a previously low-rated property are not necessarily spam. They may be honest opinions. In other words, TripAdvisor may be able to catch flagrant violations of its policies, but it is likely that this in a very small minority of the cases of actual spam reviews. This is not a criticism of TripAdvisor, since it is a fundamental concern of all crowdsourced systems. What is the problem however, is that TripAdvisor has taken a crowdsourced system where people are willing to contribute their efforts without compensation to help other travelers and the company is now going to attempt to make money off their efforts.

Perhaps Expedia thinks the same thing. Recently (just after it spun-off TripAdvisor) it began providing “Expedia Verified Hotel Reviews.” In effect, when using Expedia you can read reviews for hotels in which Expedia has verified that the person contributing the evaluation both booked and stayed at the hotel in question. While this won’t solve all of the problems with people trying to tilt the evaluation system, it will make it more difficult for competitors to trash other properties and for owners of properties to tout their hotels. Good for Expedia.

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Ouch – Travel Troubles Everywhere

October 16, 2011 on 6:57 pm | In Egypt travel, Europe travel, France Travel, Greece Travel, Italy travel, London travel, Mexico travel, Paris Travel, Spain Travel, Travel Safety, UK Travel, air travel, england travel, international travel, new york travel, personal travel, rome travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel alert Greece, travel new york city, travel warnings | 2 Comments

Where to start?

Two of the largest labor unions in Greece have announced a 48 hour nationwide strike for October 19 and 20. Currently, lawyers are on strike, as are customs officers who are on a ten-day strike. See the Belfast Telegraph for details.

The “Occupy Wall Street has gone international with demonstrations in London, Toronto, Mexico City, Madrid, Rome and other locations. Unfortunately, the demonstrations turned violent in Rome. See this article from CNN for a top level overview of the demonstrations.

In Egypt, reform leaders are criticizing Egypt’s Military leadership, while the friction between the Copts (Christians) and some sects of believers in Islam, continues.

All in all, not a good week for travelers, at least those in the centers of major cities around the world. We are unsure what lies ahead for the demonstrations in Europe and the United States, but urge you to search local news sources to see if the activity might interfere with any travel you have planned. Other hotspots such as Greece and Egypt look to be long term problems that might just wind up with you taking these potential travel destinations off your bucket list, at least for a while.

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More Trouble For Tourism in Greece

June 4, 2011 on 12:31 pm | In Greece Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, air travel, personal travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel warnings | 7 Comments

On Friday, protestors took over the headquarters building of the Greek Finance Ministry in Athens in response to the austerity cuts in the budget of the government of Greece (more privatization, higher taxes, lower benefits, etc.). See this article from the Belfast Telegraph for details on the takeover of the Finance Building. In a related story appearing on Euronews it was revealed that the government of Greece had agreed to make even deeper austerity cuts in order to bring its deficit into line with the requirements of the loan bailout that will be required to keep the country’s financial house from collapsing. Unfortunately, the Greek people are unwilling to accept these mandatory cuts and we expect a summer filled with strikes and demonstrations in Athens and across Greece.

Travelers planning to visit Greece should avoid demonstrations, as these may become more violent as the summer progresses. Strikes are, also, a difficult issue because they may effect the country’s transportation network. Our recommendation is to keep you eye on the local news and be prepared to alter you schedule if a strike does happen to occur.

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Mazatlan Dropped by Disney, Holland America and Princess

January 26, 2011 on 10:12 pm | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

Continuing violence in Mazatlan focused on cruise passengers and crew has caused Disney Cruise Lines, Holland America and Princess Cruises to drop the city as a port of call on their Mexican Riviera itineraries. See this article from Fox News for more information.

Mazatlan now joins former gem of the Mexican Riviera Acapulco as ports no longer served by Disney or Holland America, although Princess Cruise still ports at Acapulco. Indeed, many cruise lines are cutting back their cruises to the Mexican Riviera due to concerns about the drug violence in Mexico. Several lines have already relocated or are planning to relocate their cruise ships based in California that service the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

ThereArePlaces provides coverage of Mazatlan and Acapulco in our guide to the Mexican Riviera for those intrepid travelers who insist on visiting. However we note, both here and in our articles on these two cities, that we currently do not recommend tourists visit either city due to concerns about public safety.

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Travel Medicine and Immunizations

January 19, 2011 on 6:08 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, international travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel and health, travel immunizations, travel medicine | 1 Comment

We are preparing for a trip to an exotic location and needed the advice of specialist in travel medicine in terms of the immunizations we might require for the journey. Of course, the first question that comes to mind is. “How do I find an expert in travel medicine and the vaccinations that might be needed for travel in the countries we plan to visit?”

Our research led us to a specialist associated with the International Society of Travel Medicine. He was a great resource and we decided to write an article for the Things Travelers Need to Know section of our ThereAreplaces website to help others out who might be in the same situation. You can find the article here.

Somewhat serendipitously, another contact sent as an article posted on the BBC today that shows why you just might need some authoritative advice from a specialist in travel medicine.

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More Strikes in France

October 11, 2010 on 10:26 am | In France Travel, Paris Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, international travel, personal travel, strikes, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel warnings | 2 Comments

The strike season appears to be turning into a year around phenomenon in France, as a major strike has been called for Tuesday that is expected to grind transportation to a halt countrywide (including air, rail and Metro (in Paris)). Further, the strikers will demonstrate again on Saturday. Another aspect of this strike is that it is an “open strike”, which means that the strike could be renewed daily by a vote of the workers supporting the effort.

Most flights into Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports will be canceled, so if you have plans to fly to, from or within France, you should contact your airlines to see what is possible.

This week’s strike in France is a specific response to the Upper House of the French system of government voting to change the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age for a full pension from 65 to 67. Read more details about the strike and the issues behind it at Yahoo news.

If you will be traveling in France tomorrow, avoid gatherings associated with the strike. It is expected that the strike will be large (as all unions seem to be supporting it) and disrupt the normal flow of daily life throughout the country.

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Travel In Europe This Autumn – It’s Great, But…

September 27, 2010 on 9:08 am | In Belgium travel, Europe travel, Spain Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, personal travel, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | 1 Comment

The countries of Europe are often attractive travel destinations in the autumn. The crowds of summer have departed, as have the high temperatures and uncomfortable humidity. The changing leaves add color, while the cooler temperatures seem to convey a vibrancy that is lacking during other seasons of the year.

Unfortunately, in 2010, autumn seems to be destined to be remembered for strikes. An article in EUbusiness indicates that “radical” Europeans want to force the nations of the European Union into depositing billions of euros with the EU Government in Brussels. In turn, these monies would be forfeitable by any country country that fails to tighten national spending as much as is required to move them back within the deficit spending levels required by EU law.

The first action for creating the deficit reduction plan will be considered on Wednesday in Brussels where it is expected to generate a protest strike of over 100,000 people. A similar protest will take place in Spain on the same day, with other demonstrations planned, but not yet scheduled, across the countries in the EU. Since most member states of the EU have broken through the deficit barrier and are attempting to cut public spending (including changing the retirement systems), it is likely that strikes by concerned citizens will plague EU countries for the rest of the year and, perhaps, beyond. In fact, solving the differences of opinion among member states concerning this issue will be crucial to the future of the European Union.

We recommend avoiding demonstrations or getting anywhere near strikes or gathered strikers. It’s not that we agree or disagree with their stand, it is just that when we are on a long deserved vacation we intend to enjoy it. It is our belief that the easiest and safest way to do that is to avoid all public demonstrations when you travel.

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“Free Navigation on Mobile Phones”

July 12, 2010 on 11:24 am | In maps, personal travel, things travelers need to know | Comments Off

We enjoy using the free navigation services available on our cell phone. Google and Nokia, for example, provide free mapping and routing services that can be a good way to find a route between locations. Cell phones equipped with GPS make the routing even easier. Using these services in your home country is a snap, but once you are outside of your home territory, the roaming charges that can apply to using these services can be amazingly large.

Garmin, who provides Personal Navigation Devices, has recently published a study of using a cell phone with a UK service area to make a trip in France from Calais to Paris based on mobile routing provided by Google Maps. The data roaming charges associated with the journey (185 miles) cost approximately $55 for the 12-13 megabytes of data required for the route. You can read the entire press release here. Garmin, of course, wants you to buy a PDA from them, but maybe that would be cheaper than using your phone for navigation services while abroad.

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More Flooding in Central Europe

June 7, 2010 on 10:15 am | In Travel Safety, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel news, travel warnings | 1 Comment

Several areas in Central Europe (Poland, northern Hungary, Slovakia and nearby locales) continue to be ravaged by flooding that some have described as the worst in a century. If you have plans to travel in this area during the next week or two, you might want read this article in preparation for your journey.

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World No Tobacco Day?

May 31, 2010 on 1:02 pm | In Health and travel, ThereArePlaces.com, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel news | Comments Off

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. In addition, it is World No Tobacco Day. Skyscanner, a flight search website, researched the topic and revealed their take on the top travel destinations around the world for smokers and non-smokers. Although the list is not exhaustive, the side comments make for good reading.

If you are interested in the World No Tobacco Day, the World Health Organization (the sponsor) has more information here. One of the goals of this year’s program is “protecting women from tobacco marketing and smoke.”

World Health Organization's World No Tobacco Day sticker

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