Tourism

CBS travel editor labels TripAdvisor an “aggressive booking engine” at Collette Travel Forum

Lauren Croft

ICYMI, Travel Weekly attended Collette’s 100 year anniversary celebrations in Rhode Island last week, which included the highly-anticipated Future of Travel 2018 Global Forum conference (in between cocktail parties, obvs).

Hundreds of industry professionals gathered in Providence, Rhode Island, to soak up some industry insights over two days – and one of the keynote speakers who set the tone for the conference was Peter Greenberg.

One of the first speakers at the conference, Greenberg held the audeinces attention immedietly. As a news presenter, it is his job, after all.

He’s the travel editor at CBS News, a producer and co-host at PBS and hosts TV show The Travel Detective with Peter Greenberg, among other TV and radio programs.

He’s the author of New York Times best-selling series Travel Detective, has won multiple Emmy awards, and was named one of the most influential people in travel by Travel Weekly US. So yeah, we were in awe.

Greenbergs talk centers around the notion of having a conversation. Not looking up a hotel online or booking via an app. Having a conversation. And how and where that conversation can take you.

And with 1.4 billion people set to cross an international border this year, having a conversation could mean the difference between a good trip and a great trip.

“We live in a world of disruption,” Greenberg began.

“We’re living in an age where the economic dynamics have changed. We’re living in the home of the brave and the land of the fee.”

Greenberg attributes the “fee” to every facet of the tourism industry experiencing astronomic growth.

Marriott, for example, is opening a new hotel every 14 hours. Hilton is opening a new one every 16 hours. And Airbnb is controlling seven per cent of the world’s accomodation. But it doesn’t stop with hotels.

“The airlines made more money operating their frequent flyer programs last year than they did by being airlines,” Greenberg explained.

“And as I stand here today, every single shipyard in the world is operating at 100 per cent capacity,” he said.

At the rate the tourism industry is continuing to grow, and technology present in travel more than ever before, Greenberg said during recent times, “we’ve lost touch”.

“So now you’ve got all of this happening at the same time. The real problem is, how does that impact you, and how do you adjust to it?

“All the transformative technology in the world can never take precedence over common sense. And what drives that common sense? Conversation.”

And Greenberg said it’s up to the industry to drive that conversation.

He referenced a story CBS covered earlier this year, where a woman staying at a hotel in Mexico was assaulted by an employee. When she tried to write about it on TripAdvisor, the site refused to publish it.

One month later, a different woman stayed at the same hotel and was assaulted by the same employee. Again, TripAdvisor didn’t publish her negative review.

And Greenberg has his own horror story – where he arrived at a hotel that had “blood on the wall, stuffing that was literally coming out of the chair” and cracked mirrors.

The bellman gave Greenberg his card, which read: get a 10 per cent discount when you leave a great review on TripAdvisor.

“What started out as a great idea of like-minded smart travellers sharing cutting-edge information has morphed into an aggressive booking engine – how did that happen?” Greenberg asked.

“Because people didn’t want to have a real conversation.”

“We’re forgetting that we have an audience out there who wants a conversation. My audience at CBS News doesn’t want me to tell them that London is lovely, or Bermuda is beautiful, or India is incredible. Because they’ve already figured that out,” he continued.

“They want to know which questions to ask to allow them to actually enjoy their experience. And that’s where all of you come in, because you get to initiate that conversation.”

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