Most advice offered on the Tripadvisor forums is by other travelers that have visited the destination you are interested in going to. They have the best intentions and can give you advice as far as they understand, however, what if you want to get off the beaten path and see the country away from the well worn path?…. Especially in a country such as Vietnam. Tripadvisor have people they deem Destination Experts, however, how expert are they? The information you need is just not in a travel guide. There was a time when I would recommend Tripadvisor was the place to go….. but no more.
The moderators at Tripadvisor have finally crossed the line and have made me angry by deleting a simple post that answered an inquisitor’s query where everybody was only giving opinion. They were asking about travel in Vietnam during TET. All of the answers were to avoid Vietnam at that time….. Hogwash!! I simply suggested doing an easy rider tour in the countryside where it will be busy and active with celebration. I did not mention that I did such tours or where they should look. The post was deleted. I am now disappointed with Tripadvisor and their moderators and would like to share some truths with you.
For years I was a big fan and showed my appreciation by offering advice in the Vietnam travel forums to people that had questions. Since I work in tourism, run a hotel, and am connected with many
branches of government, I am uniquely qualified to offer advice from the perspective of one who actually understands the culture, system, and tourism industry. The answers I give to questions on the Tripadvisor forums were actual answers based on how it really is and not a mistaken foreigner’s viewpoint. I NEVER mentioned that I had a hotel or built and guided tours in any of my posts as advertising was never my intention….. Just giving correct travel advice which is so hard to get when it comes to a country like Vietnam. I did however link to this blog in order to help answer your questions. Since December 2nd of 2012 it seems Tripadvisor has lost its way. The following pertains to the Trip Advisor Vietnam forums only. I cannot speak to other destinations.
For years I had been shocked and sometimes slack jawed at some of the very mistaken advice coming from those that Tripadvisor deemed “destination experts”. Prior to Dec 2nd, I was in contact with Tripadvisor about becoming a destination expert on their website. I was rejected without explanation even though there were a number of other “experts” that supported me…..Ok, no problem. I only thought I could help them since so much of the “expert” information is mistaken. Over the years I have met many of Tripadvisor’s destination experts for Vietnam and some are my friends. We have joked about what a Destination expert is……. Two of them who I know personally have only been in the city they are experts about for a few days and in fact, know almost nothing about the destination that they are “experts” on. There are some that are helpful when it comes to mainstream information, however, when it comes to non mainstream issues, there are very few in the know. Besides myself, there were a small number of others that live and work here and used to offer good advice or post to correct the inacurate advice given by people who wanted to help but were giving opinion and not fact. These helpful people who should have been the destination experts are no longer on the forums. Like me, their ip addresses were suddenly banned with no explanation. That’s right……. On Dec 2nd 2012 Tripadvisor decided that they would censor the information to you…. As of that day it became about profit and lost its original purpose of being there to help you. Why? I suspect it is because we also have websites that might attract you away from their money generating forum. So…. What is a Trip advisor destination expert? It looks like it is an individual that fits whatever requirement Tripadvisor wants and has nothing to do with being familiar with the actual destination.
So here is my relationship with Tripadvisor……. Like I mentioned earlier, I was a big fan and created the alias of Owee. For about 4 years and 6000 posts, I offered advice never referring to my business and I would sign with my blog link under my name. Before I ever did this, I contacted Tripadvisor support and they assured me that it was totally acceptable to link to my blog. Great… Whenever I found myself answering repetitive questions, I created a blog page to give comprehensive answers. Subjects like weather, crime, transportation, and attractions were easily accessed. I received (and still do) many compliments for my efforts which just encouraged me to continue. Some of my more popular posts were Weather and Rainfall charts, another is a page where I talk about my friends at V’Explore Travel, and a lot of pages where I talk about getting away from mainstream Vietnam (which in many cases are not representative of what Vietnam is really like) into a real Vietnam experience. Some readers would figure out that I work in tourism and be interested in my services, however, many had no idea. There were those on Trip advisor that thought my posts was some evil plot I had to lure customers into my snare…… What a bunch of paranoid idiots!! If I end up with some spin off business because of the advice I give…. SO WHAT!! I am providing what they went to Tripadvisor to find!! Is that not what they promote themselves to be, or is helping the traveler just a big lie? I continued giving advice and often contradicted mistaken advice from others causing me to get a reputation and also to get overwhelmed with personal messages and emails asking specific questions…. I did not mind. I was happy to help, then all of a sudden one day, I was not able to log onto my account and received the message that my account had been suspended.
I will continue my rant in my next blog post…..