TripAdvisor will now flag reported sexual assaults on travel reviews

TripAdvisor will now flag reported sexual assaults on travel reviews
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TripAdvisor will now flag reports of sexual assaults at hotels and resorts on their travel review website.

The world’s largest travel company announced Tuesday that it will now include safety warnings on the pages for places where sexual assault, physical assault, drugging, sex trafficking, armed robbery and death have been reported by users. 

Potential guests can use the safety filter to find reported incidents rather reading through tens of millions of reviews detailing complaints on TripAdvisor.

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“We allow travelers to share their experiences on our platform, but we also ensure that businesses can respond,” wrote Lindsay Nelson, TripAdvisor’s president of core experience. “When a safety concern is raised in a review, we know that travelers want to understand whether the management has taken action to resolve it. We encourage business owners to use our Management Response feature to publicly communicate what they have done to address travelers’ concerns.”

The move follows an investigation by the Detroit Free Press into the widespread problem of sexual assault after two Michigan women reported being raped at a five-star Jamaican resort last year. 

TripAdvisor spokesman Brian Hoyt told the newspaper that the discovery of 1,100 reviews last year citing incidents of sexual assault — approximately three tourist rapes a day — raised concern.

"When [the] article hit, we started re-evaluating our policies," Hoyt said. "One incident is horrible — 1,100 is horrific. Having read through many of these accounts, it really motivated us at TripAdvisor to make sure we do right by these survivors and help them find a way to share this information with others."

"Your article is a case study for why we are doing what we are doing,” Hoyt told the Free Press.

The move also comes after a viral Change.Org petition called on TripAdvisor to take action against sexual assault, earning more than 535,000 signatures.

The petition, created by a woman named Kay, accuses the company of deleting her negative review for a tour guide she said raped her last October in the Horn of Africa, the Free Press reported. The suspect has reportedly since been arrested and is awaiting trial.

“When I asked for help warning other tourists about my attacker, the company simply suggested I leave a review. Not only was this solution woefully inadequate to warn other tourists – my one star review would quickly get lost among minor complaints about the guide – but it required me to relive the painful details of my assault and out myself publicly in a place where my assailant could likely find me,” the petition states.

Juliana Britto Schwartz, an associate campaign director with Change.Org, told the newspaper that officials tried to deliver the petition to TripAdvisor’s New York office on Wednesday but were refused.

"No one would come down," Schwartz said, adding that TripAdvisor has "some trust to rebuild with users."

Hoyt told the Free Press that Kay’s first review had been removed because it was written in third-person, raising concerns of people writing negative reviews based on hearsay.

The company claimed it tried to help her with her concerns about anonymity.

"We offered to help her set up a second anonymous profile where she could leave a nondescript review of what happened to her, and she refused that as well," Hoyt said. "We've given her multiple opportunities to write. ... If Kay wants to write a review of what happened to her, we'd let her. She has chosen not to do that."