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I recently spent a week in Normandy in France on holiday! (OK I did do some research for a feature too.) It gave me another opportunity to use the web to research a trip and another opportunity to learn how poor the experience can sometimes be.

The Moulin Du Vey looks pretty perfect on its website.

Your calm and peaceful stopover in the countryside by the river... Our rooms, all personalized, are small and intimate or bigger, with style. Prices from: 76 € to 108 €. Full board and half-board also available. Breakfast is served outside as soon as the fine summer days arrive, or cosily in your room.

According to the home page it's also a member of Chateaux and Hotels De France - which is a pretty decent indicator of quality.

I checked the Trip Advisor review too. There was only the one review - dated January 2009 - a bit old, but not years out of date. And it was pretty positive - titled The Best Stay You Can Have.

[UPDATE: Guillaume from Trip Advisor has just informed me that they have now taken the hotel review page down from the site. See his comments below. You can see the review in the cache of the page on Google.]

We didn't book ahead - intentionally - as we wanted to just see where we ended up. But as it happened we were close to the place at about 5pm after a long day of driving so it seemed like it would be well worth the detour.

Except when we got there it was closed.

There was one other small hotel nearby and we were really tired. So I called them and managed to get a room. When we got there I asked the owner about Moulin Du Vey.  "Yes, we get quite a lot of people here as a result of that," he smiled. "It's been closed nearly 4 years now but the owner has never taken the website down."

Was the Trip Advisor review just a joke? Maybe the person who wrote the review dated Jan 2009 added their review a couple of years after they actally stayed at the property?

One way or another this really highlighted the danger of relying on the web alone for holiday research. Sure, I could have been more organised and called ahead, but the website is very convincing. It even says: Closed between December 1st and December 28th. Telephone answering service available between those dates. There are details of special menus for Valentines' Day on the restaurant pages and it offers an email link too.

What I find interesting about this is the way the web propagates and distributes errors. A few examples of review sites that include the Moulin Du Vey with varying degrees of UGC and other information:

http://www.travelpod.com/hotel/Moulin_Du_Vey_Chateaux_Hotels_De_France-Clecy.html
http://www.la-france-autrement.com/chateau_hotel-en-moulin_du_vey.html
http://www.wahanda.com/place/moulin-du-vey/

Once something is online it never dies.

The place might have closed years ago, but it lives on in myriad - usually really poor quality - websites all scraping content from wherever they can to to try and fill up their sites. I think the owner of the hotel is seriously at fault for not taking down the website and if I were Chateaux and Hotels De France I'd be insisting he took down the logo immediately.

Should TripAdvisor and other review and booking sites be responsible for taking down pages refering to places that are no longer in business? Is that even possible these days with so many of these review sites out there?

10 thoughts on “Would you stay at this hotel?

  1. Hello Jeremy,

    Thank you for submitting your experience. It's true that unless people tell us, we are unable to check that all of 450,000 hotels listed on TripAdvisor are still open to the public.

    We are constantly making modifications on our listings when hoteliers tell us via the Owner Centre page or when consumers find something odd on our sites.

    We will make sure that this hotel page gets updated for future travelers.

    Thanks again.

    Guillaume
    Hotel Trade Relations Manager, EMEA, TripAdvisor

    1. In these cases you can't really expect review sites to know when somewhere has closed down. They have to rely on their users to tell them.

      The point though is it again highlights how unreliable UGC can be and the difficulty of confirming their validity.

      I can only see this getting worse because review sites are not taking the situation seriously enough.

    2. Hi Guillaame
      Thanks for your very swift response! Very impressive.
      I'll be interested to see how the page gets updated? Do you delete it completely or just put a big note at the top of the page saying 'This property is currently closed'?
      Thanks for taking the time to comment
      Jeremy

  2. Yes - I agree completely. The situation can only get worse as the number of sites chasing UGC content increases.

  3. Hi Jeremy
    I deliverer training to accommodation providers on the subject of marketing their business online and offline, and I agree that there's no excuse for business owners not to make every effort to ensure that their web presence is accurate and up to date. It's a point that I continually emphasise in the marketing courses that I develop for regional tourist boards in the UK.

    Expenditure on marketing is completely wasted if the reality of the consumer experience is a let-down, or indeed if it creates unrealistic expectations (a sure recipe for consumer complaints).

    Thanks to consumer generated websites like 'Trip Advisor' et al, word soon gets round if anything's not up to scratch on factual accuracy, service levels, health and safety or maintenance. A business then risks becoming the recipient of bad publicity; and nowadays the most powerful testimony can be supported by photographic and/or video evidence!

    Unfortunately poor and unprofessional accommodation providers give the tourism industry a bad name; but they need help to understand why and also how they can improve.

    This is amply illustrated by Channel Four's new series 'Three in a Bed'(Wednesday 8pm). Each episode features three business owners who take turns to stay in and critique each others B&Bs, paying only what they think an overnight stay is worth on check out.

    It should be required watching for small hotels and B&B owners. Those who watch could get a lot of useful tips about how to marjket and run a sucessful and profitable business.

    Like a sort of business version of 'Come Dine with Me', this week's episode was a cracker, with a 5 star Gold award winning B&B in Blackpool up against an uninspected but photogenic thatched cottage B&B near Bournemouth, and a Skegness guest house. I won't spoil it by telling you which of them unanimously got the highest rating, but it wasn't the obvious one. I can't wait for next week's episode.

    I try to do my bit to help with visually led and interactive marketing training. I emphasise low cost and practical marketing tips, realistic for even the smallest of accommodfation providers, and suggest that owner managers adopt a healthy attitude of cautious optimism in the (hopefully) post recession operating envronment.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Hi Jeremy,

    Because the property is closed down and doesn't seem to re-open soon, we thought the best decision was to remove the property from the site. As you would expect, search engines will take a little while to update cache info about that hotel page.

    Thanks, Guillaume

  5. Very interesting, Jeremy. This trend is only going to increase, I think. Even though more and more businesses--hotels, for example--are learning about social media and their on-line presence, there are still lazy travel writers/fact checkers and websites that use content recycled from other sites that use content that recycles from other sites... With publications/websites wanting to save money on content production, they rely on other other sources instead of their own research.

    As for TripAdvisor, I'm equally impressed Guillaume was so responsive of this post! It's nice to see.

    I'm glad you found another hotel, though :)

    1. Maybe it’s a French attitude ? There is still a sign on the main road through the middle of the Lot pointing to an Auberge. If you follow the sign and several subsequent signs (for 3 kms) you come to the actual restaurant with menus and all the trappings of a working restaurant. There is no sign saying closed. However on my visit the owner was gardening and told me (in an incredulous manner) that the restaurant had been closed for eighteen months and gave usual Gallic shrug when asked why the signs are not removed. Two years later the signs are still there !

  6. I agree on this as many hotels etc are all chasing UGC comments and the practice of rewarding positive reviews should be looked into.

  7. The web can be a useful tool when researching travel writing, but it can't beat or replace actually experiencing the places for yourself. Too many hacks out there (especially guidebook writers) rely on websites for info about opening times, prices, etc. I look at these things in the course of my own writing too, but often find when I doublecheck at the actual place that some info has changed. The website is usually the last thing to be updated.

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