Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Tourism NZ link to site draws fire

Moteliers have hit out at New Zealand's official tourism body. Photo / Thinkstock
Moteliers have hit out at New Zealand's official tourism body. Photo / Thinkstock

Moteliers have hit out at New Zealand's official tourism body for linking itself to a peer-review website accused of aiding blackmail tactics by malicious guests.

Tourism New Zealand added an optional TripAdvisor ratings function to its newzealand.com website this year, allowing businesses to show their TripAdvisor ratings alongside their Qualmark status.

But the move has drawn criticism from some in the motel industry - and its association chief, Michael Baines, has accused Tourism New Zealand of showing "poor judgment" over the call.

It comes after TripAdvisor - which claims to be the world's largest travel site, with more than 50 million customer reviews - last week suspended a new system allowing users to post ratings without reviews or comments amid an uproar from the travel industry.

Mr Baines, who last month warned prospective guests to be vigilant of malicious online comments when using TripAdvisor, said he could name many cases where Kiwi moteliers had been threatened with scathing reviews.

"Some of our guys are delighted with their TripAdvisor comments and push it for business, but my personal feeling is that it should have been an area that Tourism New Zealand should have stayed out of," he told the Herald.

"I think, why would they have a public comments site on a marketing website for New Zealand tourism? I'm not sure that's the role of Tourism New Zealand."

Tim Stephens, of Ballina Motel in Taradale, who said a disgruntled guest who accused him of lying over a payment dispute arranged for two friends to write bad reviews on the site, has complained to Tourism New Zealand over its decision.

He was further alarmed to see TripAdvisor ratings placed alongside Qualmark ratings.

Industry writer and consultant James Hacon saw Tourism New Zealand's decision as positive, and said that national tourism agencies across the world were aligning themselves with TripAdvisor. "You just have to look at it on a global scale - it's a hugely growing trend that people are looking at reviews before they travel."

Tourism NZ's brand and international PR general manager, Catherine Bates, said registered operators on newzealand.com were informed of the change when it happened and to date, 25 per cent of listings on newzealand.com have included Trip-Advisor ratings.

"We know that personal recommendation is something that aids people in their decision making and TripAdvisor is a known brand in online feedback relating to travel experiences. Their website gets 50 million unique visitors per month."

- NZ Herald

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