TripAdvisor Icons Show Hotels Involved in Resort Assault in Mexico

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Kristie Love read November 2 headlines from around the world – “TripAdvisor Apologizes for Removing User Post Regarding Rape at Resort”, “TripAdvisor Apologizes for Removing Rape Complaint … ”And“ TripAdvisor apologizes to the alleged rape victim… ”

Then, the next day, she saw a statement on LinkedIn from Steve Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor, saying that the company was making improvements, was horrified by what had happened to Love and others and that travelers had to be at current of incidents.

And, he said, the company has “apologized to the victim for his experience.”

The love was outraged.

“WHAT EXCUSES? She replied on LinkedIn. “I haven’t heard a word from TripAdvisor yet, and certainly not an apology!”

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In a letter to Kaufer on Wednesday, Love explained, “Having not received a single phone call or email from your company, my immediate thought was hearsay,” she wrote. “It was then brought to my attention that this so-called ‘apology’ was in the form of a press release dated November 1, 2017.”

Hearsay is why TripAdvisor has given dozens of travelers not to post their warnings about terrible things that have happened to them or their loved ones at popular resorts in Mexico.

It turns out that while the company was publicly apologizing, no one had contacted Love, the Texas woman whose post about the sexual assault by a security guard at a resort in Mexico in 2010 was deleted from. TripAdvisor.

At least two other women said they were assaulted at the same resort after Love’s warning was removed from TripAdvisor.

Kaufer ended up calling Love, but for her it was too little, too late.

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As TripAdvisor scrambles to respond to complaints from users who say the company has banned them from posting negative reviews and comments detailing serious injuries and other terrifying experiences while traveling, dozens more have told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they too have had their posts blocked by TripAdvisor.

At the same time, the company on Wednesday placed its first warning “badges” on three resorts in Mexico, including the Iberostar Paraiso Maya, the resort where Love and others were assaulted and where Abbey Conner, a woman. from Wisconsin, 20, mysteriously drowned just hours after arriving with her family.

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The Grand Velas Riviera Maya, where a tourist receiving a massage at the spa was sexually assaulted, had also placed a warning badge on its site.

The red banner at the top of the resort listings on TripAdvisor is warning tourists that the resorts have been the subject of media coverage and suggests travelers may want to do more in-depth research.

The disclaimer notes that media reports or events may not be reflected in the TripAdvisor reviews.

“Those were just the first three,” TripAdvisor spokesperson Brian Hoyt said of the warnings. “We will be monitoring media coverage in the future.”

He said an internal committee is responsible for making the decision on which properties and establishments get the badges.

TripAdvisor has started designing a new warning system to alert tourists to hotels, restaurants and attractions that have been the subject of media coverage after Journal Sentinel began asking questions of the review site. users while investigating Conner’s death in July.

The company said it is also reviewing the way it informs consumers that their reviews and forum posts have been removed for having contained hearsay. The company will now specify the exact phrase or words that consist of hearsay so that users can edit their submissions and post their posts, Hoyt said.

And the company has launched new training for destination experts and others who have the ability to delete messages, making sure they know health and safety issues are important and should stay on course. site, he said.

The Sentinel Journal has found that countless “trusted community members” have the ability to delete forum posts and that “destination experts” – members who give advice on where to travel – can. be local tour guides, property owners and have other financial interests in attracting tourists. TripAdvisor does not disclose potential conflicts and will not say how individuals or businesses obtain these privileges.

“The company is doing the right things to recognize that what happened to Ms. Love in 2010 was horrible,” Hoyt said. “We see this as an opportunity to do things better in the future. “

TripAdvisor’s profits are generated by clicks and bookings to resorts from its site.

TripAdvisor shares have plunged 20% to their lowest level in five years since Monday’s close at $ 39.53, following disappointing earnings and recent reporting. The stock closed Thursday at $ 31.56. The company lost $ 1 billion in market value this week.

Senator calls for an investigation

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) Is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the company. A week earlier, Republican Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson had asked the Inspector General to launch a review of how the State Department “monitors, records and reports overseas incidents involving physical abuse or death after the potential consumption of contaminated alcohol “.

In a November 2 letter to Maureen Ohlausen, the committee’s acting chair, Baldwin said she feared TripAdvisor “is prioritizing profit over providing an open and honest forum for traveler reviews. “.

She said access to accurate information is especially important in light of the deaths and injuries in Mexico and the failure of the US State Department to properly notify tourists.

She called it “imperative” that TripAdvisor and similar websites not censor their participatory content.

“In particular, limiting or removing reviews that detail unsafe conditions could endanger future travelers, who look to TripAdvisor for accurate information,” she wrote.

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This was the main reason Kristie Love was determined to share what had happened to her as she walked into the hotel lobby one night after her room key was disabled. She wanted to protect others.

“Mr. Kaufer, six months after my warnings were removed, my nightmare and motivation to prosecute this criminal has come true,” Love wrote in a Nov. 7 letter to the CEO of TripAdvisor. “I was contacted by the parents of a 19-year-old girl from New Jersey who was also raped by a security guard on the same property while she was on vacation with her family.

“Could you imagine if this had been YOUR daughter that wasn’t protected?” And that’s what I can never forget. Even more than the crime against myself, this innocent second year college student traveling with her family changed her life FOREVER. Considering the family owned a travel agency and relied heavily on TripAdvisor reviews both in their business and personally, I’m pretty confident this would never have happened if my story had NOT been deleted. .

Late Wednesday afternoon, Love received an email from Kaufer, who apologized and explained the company’s new warning policies.

“Although I don’t know anything from what I’m telling you can never undo what happened to you, or make up for the angst caused by not being able to warn others about your sexual assault on our platform at l ‘time, I hope this letter will help clarify our current policies and explain the measures in place to ensure experiences like yours can be shared on TripAdvisor, ”said Kaufer.

Raquel Rutledge is an investigative journalist. Her work has won numerous national awards, including a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for exposing widespread fraud in Wisconsin’s child care subsidy program. Contact Raquel by email at [email protected], or by phone at 414-224-2778. You can follow her on Twitter: @raquelrutledge.


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