Tripadvisor defended its independence after it was questioned by Tui Travel chief executive Peter Long at the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Venice today.
Long questioned to what extent Tripadvisor is a truly independent review site at the end of a session he shared with Thomas Cook chief executive Manny Fontentla-Novoa.
However, Christine Petersen, president of Tripadvisor for business, said the site sends as much business to Travelocity, Lastminute.com and Priceline as Expedia, the parent from which it will soon be spun off to become separate publically listed company.
“We are a media company, not an OTA”, Peterson said in response to Long’s comment.
Petersen said Tripadvisor was serving two sets of customers: the traveller and its commercial partners the hoteliers and, increasingly, tours and attractions suppliers and destinations.
She said the site would never meddle with the site’s popularity index because customers expected integrity but that hoteliers were being helped to raise their visibility through initiatives like business listings.
And she said responded to a question about how Tripadvisor deals with fake reviews saying its technology and 40 million unique users helped weed out spurious reviews.
“Credibility is incredibly important to us. If consumers did not have faith in our product we would not have a business, certainly not one that has been growing the way it has.”
Petersen revealed Tripadvisor now has 20% of its monthly traffic coming from mobile and with eight million unique users using its mobile site.
And she said Tripadvisor customers were increasingly looking to use social media to back up decisions they make about where to stay and what to do.
“These days what consumers are looking for, I believe, is a greater integration of social media in their everyday lives.
“The next stage is integrating social media into your existing business and into your websites.”
Peterson denied that review sites were just a portal for people to complain. “People fear that reviews are primarily negative and people only rant and rave. I can tell you that’s not true. Our average review score is 3.9 out of 5.”
However, Petersen encouraged hotel owners to engage with social media to address negative comments and to thanks customers for positive reviews because this has been proved to increase conversion rates.