How many times have you relied on reviews from TripAdvisor to decide where to book your next vacation? Now imagine that the site you’ve come to rely on for everything from what hotel to book to places to eat deleted pertinent information that could impact your safety. According to CBS News and an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that’s exactly what’s been happening.
What Exactly is the Travel Website Deleting?
The investigation found several posts deleted offering first-person accounts of rape, robberies, and other dangerous situations to travelers while on vacation. This practice by TripAdvisor gained attention after Kristie Love, a woman allegedly drugged and raped at an all-inclusive Mexican resort by a security guard, reached out to the media. Love reported leaving a detailed review of what took place at the resort and found the travel website deleted her post citing that it violated its “family friendly” policy. Other women have come forward detailing similar stories of sexual assault at various resorts, including the same one Love visited a few years back. In fact, one woman notes that if she had been able to see those negative reviews, it could have prevented what happened to her.
What Does This Mean for Women Traveling Solo?
Over 400 million people visit TripAdvisor every month and mostly for reviews on hotel accommodations. Women traveling solo are already are at risk of being targeted by criminals and it is especially more evident when traveling overseas. TripAdvisor, to its credit has apologized to Love and others for deleting their posts and has restored their comments. But there’s a catch. They restored the post using the original date it was added to the website. In some cases, that means the posts are buried several years back and out of the view of women who rely on these reviews today when deciding where its safe to travel. Further, the website has said it will begin to identify resorts that have safety concerns with a special badge as a means to warn consumers of past reviews that may not have been favorable. However, we visited TripAdvisor’s website and the same Mexican Resort, Iberostar Paraiso May, that women have reported being drugged and raped at now has a badge of “Certificate of Excellence.”
Where Should You Check Before Booking Your Next Travel?
Everyone relies on reviews to book travel and that’s not going to change anytime soon. What you want to focus on during your research are sources that not only take into account first person experiences, but avoids rating hotels, restaurants and other establishments. For instance, the U.S. State Department does not make any distinctions for hotels or counties besides identifying them as safe or hostile for American travelers. A certain country does not receive a “gold star” or is labeled as “best in class” since the main concern is safety. You are more likely to receive information about what type of crime occurred in the specific country you’re interested in visiting and be provided a list of “off-limit” places since the American government may have limited ability to provide aid to travelers in those areas. So to avoid ending up at a shady establishment, check with the U.S. State Department if you’re traveling abroad. If you’re traveling within the U.S., be sure to check crime reports posted by local police departments and newspapers.
A lot of people believe that TripAdvisor has a moral obligation to notify visitors of potential safety concerns about hotels and other establishments mentioned on their website. While they may have a moral obligation, they do not have a legal one. It’s up to us to leave no stone unturned because the only memories we want to come back home with are good ones!