I received my TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence again today for my little one man tour company that explains the indigenous and Spanish roots to modern traditions in central Mexico. The irony was not lost on me since this week TripAdvisor also released their new user interface. Since I don’t book through them, I’m now nearly impossible to find. No longer is TripAdvisor an objective and unbiased resource for travelers and vacation planners. Pity.
In an effort to increase profit TripAdvisor has altered its ecosystem to promote what TripAdvisor calls “Sponsored Placements” above all other traveler options for hotels, restaurants, tours, activities and attractions. In exchange for seamlessly and endlessly advertising Sponsored Placements, Trip Advisor receives 40% of the cost and delays payment to the service provider for three months. All business owners know it is never good to have another company between you and your clients.
For someone like me, that has a variety of options, I prefer to engage with folks to find out where their interests lie and point them in the right direction. Plus I loathe the notion of having some faceless company assigning my tours’ dates and times. TripAdvisor doesn’t know the impact of weather or certain local events, like I do.
For others the new system is a godsend. I’ve a pal that does two of the same horseback riding tours daily. By having TripAdvisor promote her she’s greatly increased tour guests to more than compensate for TripAdvisor’s hefty percentage and glacial timing with payment.
The new system is not a surprise as TripAdvisor purchased a reservation software company in 2018 so the writing was on the wall. The part that surprised me was how aggressive TripAdvisor became with literally hiding hotels, activities, attractions, etc. that don’t pay them thus completely defeating the point of TripAdvisor being an unbiased and objective research option for travelers. The conflict of interest is blatant.
Sidebar: TripAdvisor was forced by the courts to remove the words “trusted” or “truth” in their tag line which now simply states the more mundane “The world’s largest travel site.”
TripAdvisor’s top management stresses they are objective as they are maintaining their ranking structure and this is true. I’m still the number one private tour guide in my area according to TripAdvisor. You just need the sleuthing skills of Hercule Poirot to actually find my listing on TripAdvisor after a screen by screen bombardment to instead go to a vendor that pays TripAdvisor.
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.