At least that’s what most observers think.
Or they believe the move is a reaction to Google’s increasingly strong forays into the travel space.
The relationship between hoteliers and TripAdvisor has not been a happy one.
Successful hotel managers or innkeepers like Dick Pabich of the popular Salem Inn in Salem, Massachusetts, have been burned by false and exaggeratedly negative reviews on TripAdvisor all too many times. “It really drives us crazy,” he says. “We accept not all our reviews will be positive, but some are outright lies.”
And the review giant has been burned by investigations in the UK relative to “bought” reviews.
Travel Weekly, the travel industry publication of record, recently noted that TripAdvisor may be subject to”legal expenses related to claims ranging from defamation and libel to negligence.”
But TripAdvisor has always tried to do the right thing and ultimately values its relationship to the hotel and travel industry, so its new Widget Center is a bridge-builder.
It enables hotels to add critical reviews, ratings and even regional attractions to a hotel’s website.
The addition of the Widget Center could also be a reaction to Google’s rapid expansion of its presence in the travel space.
The giant search site recently pulled third-party user reviews from Google Maps and Google Places, which, among other things, significantly reduces content exposure of review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Google claims it has no intention of entering the booking stage of the travel space, but, according to Nigel Huddleston, head of Google Travel UK and Ireland, it plans to play an increasing role in the sharing and experiencing stages of travel.
We tend to think once in, Google will find it difficult to not fully engage in flight and hotel search technology.
Regardless, Carroll Rheem, Research Director of PhoCusWright, an industry think tank was quoted in Travel Weekly as saying hoteliers appreciate the Widget because it enables them to build a strong presence of user-generated content on their pages.
And most agree, the TripAdvisor widgets can be a boon to business.
Although the site offers a “help page” for businesses interested in installing the widgets, the process is pretty straightforward.
The snippet of HTML code brings in “live” third-party content without anyone having to update the page.
But neither can a review be modified, of course.
Tnooz also sees the move as a good thing, saying TripAdvisor is opening itself up to the travel and tourism business.
Last August it launched its “Management Center” to help travel businesses and properties drive sales.
Rheem wisely adds that hoteliers should “embrace” user reviews on their site, whether they’re positive or negative.
And in the transparency-driven world of social media, there really is no other choice.