Belfast Telegraph

TripAdvisor gives thumbs up for Belfast hotel - but feels dragon's wrath over Bannatyne reviews

By Margaret Canning

While travellers love TripAdvisor, one of the earliest success stories, hotel businesses are divided on the merit of the site, which enables the public to post reviews of hotels and B&Bs they have stayed in.

Tara Lodge, off Botanic Avenue in south Belfast, has cracked open the bubbly after it emerged as one of the best hotels in the UK in TripAdvisor's 2011 Travelers' Choice awards.

Tara Lodge was seventeenth in the top 25 UK hotel list - the only Northern Ireland hotel to make it into the chart.

Plenty to celebrate, and plenty of reason for its owners to heap praise on the democratic forum which TripAdvisor provides. Manager Nora Douds said it was the hotel's "good product, professional and friendly service and 'value for money' price" which led it to the accolade. She points out that Belfast hotels have an 89% approval rate on the website.

"With a growing number of consumers who will not book accommodation without consulting TripAdvisor or one of the many other websites offering 'try before you buy' reviews this can only result in better service and standard of hospitality for us all," is her view.

But TripAdvisor has caused Duncan Bannatyne - most famous for being a 'dragon' on the BBC2 reality business show Dragons' Den but also the owner of a string of hotels and gyms - to breathe fire.

In the latest development in a row over a negative review posted on TripAdvisor, the website has accused Mr Bannatyne and his team of trying to intimidate reviewers.

TripAdvisor published a review comparing Mr Bannatyne's Charlton House resort in Somerset to Fawlty Towers. Mr Bannatyne described the write-up as a "rogue review" containing "obvious lies", and then expressed his ire to TripAdvisor. He claims it retaliated by removing four five-star reviews "in which I can only assume was an attempt to punish me for speaking out". He is now threatening legal action.

But TA says that while hoteliers have a right to reply, there have been "several worrying examples" of individuals being intimidated by Mr Bannatyne and co. Bannaytne's company denies any claims of bullying, counter-claiming that TA is bullying small hotel owners.

The row is an intriguing one and shows the confluence of online reviews, corporate might and the law.

Just don't mention the war.