There's a vast amount of useful travel information out there on the web - and I use it a lot when researching trips and checking stories - but you do need to be wary about its accuracy.

Unfortunately a lot of online material turns out to be out of date. And some of it seems to be motivated by personal malice.

The Herald ran a news story about this recently, with Kaimai View Motel owner Tony Drinkwater complaining about a customer being able to file a nasty review on in the course of a dispute over payment of a bill.

The chief executive of the Motel Association Michael Baines says this is just one of many examples of moteliers being threatened with scathing reviews on websites like TripAdvisor.


"As an industry we don't get it right all the time ... but more and more we see people saying ... 'if you don't give us a discount we'll write a bad review on TripAdvisor'. To me, that's no different to demanding money with menaces."

There have been similar reports from Britain where, according to one story, more than 80 B&B owners said they had been threatened with bad reviews by customers. In one case cited by the Daily Telegraph a guest apparently asked for a 50 per cent discount in return for not filing false reports of theft and food poisoning.

I've used TripAdvisor from time to time to check out places to stay and it's not hard to find reviews that seem to have more to do with some personal agenda than a genuine experience. One hotel in Paris I was thinking of staying at had several highly favourable reviews, a mass of middle-of-the-road ratings and one or two that were absolutely vitriolic. It was hard to imagine they were all writing about the same place.

We went there anyway and it was actually a perfectly reasonable hotel - not flash but comfortable and well-run - and we enjoyed staying there.

Like the motel industry, magazines such as Travel and guidebook publishers like Lonely Planet don't get it right all the time either, but at least there is a set of rules and a checking process seeking to sift out errors and personal agendas.

On TripAdvisor and most of the web it's a free-for-all where people can say what they like, with no checks and few consequences.

That's its strength ... and its greatest weakness.