UPDATE: TripAdvisor flags hotels where assaults were reported

A screen shot showing TripAdvisor's vague warning atop the review page for Iberostar Paraiso Lindo.
A screen shot showing TripAdvisor's vague warning atop the review page for Iberostar Paraiso Lindo.

This report was updated Monday with information from the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, which says the TripAdvisor warning for its resort should be removed.


TripAdvisor has flagged three Mexico resorts where reviewers have alleged they were sexually assaulted, adding vague warnings atop the listings of Iberostar Paraiso Maya, Iberostar Paraiso Lindo and Grand Velas Riviera Maya. 

In red tinted boxes with red print, TripAdvisor wrote: "TripAdvisor has been made aware of recent media reports or events concerning this property which may not be reflected in reviews found on this listing. Accordingly, you may wish to perform additional research for information about this property when making your travel plans."

In a statement sent to Travel Weekly, the Grand Velas said the warning should be removed because "we firmly believe the alleged incident did not happen." In this case, a reviewer alleged he was sexually assaulted during a massage at the spa.

"We cooperated with the police who investigated the matter fully," the Grand Velas said. "Both our investigation and the police investigation concluded that the reviewer's allegations were not supported by any evidence and were inconsistent with various facts. We firmly believe that the alleged incident did not happen. Last year we had close to 25,000 services performed in our spa in the Riviera Maya without any incident. We have provided thorough documentation to TripAdvisor for their committee to reevaluate the badge's placement and look forward to seeing its removal shortly."

TripAdvisor's new policy follows a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report in which a woman said she was raped at Iberostar Paraiso Maya in 2010. She, and other TripAdvisor reviewers, said their posts detailing experiences in which they were assaulted or injured were declined or deleted.

"We apologize to the sexual assault victim reported on in the article, who had her forum post removed seven years ago on TripAdvisor," the company said in a statement Friday. "At the time, we had a policy whereby we judged content to be in breach of our guidelines if it did not adhere to family-friendly language. A few years ago, we updated that policy to allow more descriptive reviews and content about first-hand accounts of serious incidents like rape or assault. Even at that time, we recognized that our previous guidelines went too far in preventing information like this from being shared."

As for the warnings, the company says its "vetting of news reports continues and it is likely more businesses will receive this badge as more information is reviewed." TripAdvisor will employ such badges for as long as three months, though may extend that time frame "if issues persist."

TripAdvisor also addressed claims that its decision to remove or decline certain posts was impacted by its relationships with hotels and resorts, which pay TripAdvisor when visitors click through the site to book a room.

"TripAdvisor has always maintained -- since our founding -- a strict separation between our commerce and content businesses," the company said. "Despite assertions and statements made by a recent USA Today/Journal Sentinel article, there is no tie between commercial relationships with our partners and how our content guidelines are applied to reviews or forum posts published on the site.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI