For some reason this change (which took place at the end of 2012) has received a lot of coverage recently.
Like so much about TripAdvisor - the headline makes sense, but the devil is in the detail...
Let's see what TripAdvisor's Alison Croyle has to say about this modification of a key element of their policy:
"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."
Hang on! You renovate and TripAdvisor will remove negative reviews about 'rude staff' and 'bedbugs'? Surely in order for that to happen all you need to do is provide evidence to TA that you have replaced all your staff and bought new beds and linen?
We think TripAdvisor should think very seriously about investing more in this area. We welcome the concept of 'clean slates', but not right across the board - deleting reviews relating to service and other non-physical aspects of the guests' stay is counter-productive for both the potential guest and the hotel; and it's demonstrably unfair to hotels who have made huge improvements in the area of guest service and accommodation, but have stopped short of full on rebuilds.
It's even more unfair to hotels where management have invested heavily in staff training. They could easily end up in a situation where their major competitor 'renovates' and leaps ahead in the oh-so crucial rankings overnight - their 'rude staff' and 'bedbugs' will bring them back down again, but in the meantime they'll lose out in a big way.
And what about TA's loyal reviewers? They write a review of a hotel citing poor staff and other non-property related matters as a reason for a critical review - only to find it's been deleted!?
Potentially more sinister is this:
"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."
Hotels often change ownership, but that seldom means big changes in on-site management and staffing. Why not let the new ownership prove itself with a big improvement in guest satisfaction through its reviews first?
Here's one easy 'quick fix' suggestion for TripAdvisor:
Delete all reviews more than 2 years old for all properties. How's that? Hurt anyone? anyone interested in or helped by 3 year old reviews?
Renovated properties would soon recover their reputations, and there would be an even greater incentive for everyone in-hotel to make that extra effort.