TripAdvisor Review Costs Hotel Employee His Job

While many travelers enjoy using TripAdvisor to browse reviews of hotels and excursions, employees of tourism organizations have reason to fear the popular website and its unverified critiques. In fact, Fred Keeler, a former bartender at the Four Points by Sheraton Philadelphia Northeast hotel for almost 14 years, was fired after being the target of a TripAdvisor review.

“I’ve never heard of anyone being targeted specifically and actually being fired over a TripAdvisor review,” Fred Keeler told NBC News. “I want to prevent this from happening to anyone in the future.”

The post, written by user “Angelo G” and titled “Bad, Bad, Bad… Did I Say Bad!” gave the Sheraton a rating of 1 out of 5 and complained about everything from a “crappy check-in” to shower drains being clogged. What hurt Keeler, however, was a comment the writer made about the “one good thing” about his stay. Angelo G wrote, “The bartender, I think his name was Fred said for $20 tip he would give me open tap all night, he said ‘they count the good stuff.”

Keeler had had an argument with one of his co-workers the night before, and this is who he believes wrote the post. When the bartender was summoned to the human resources department, denied the allegation when shown the review. He was fired five days later.When NBC called Four Points by Sheraton Philadelphia Northeast for follow-up comments they declined to discuss the case, stating it was against company policy to talk about employee matters.

Although TripAdvisor has a team of content integrity specialists who review claims of suspicious content, Keeler’s options were limited. He tried to write a response post, but the site wouldn’t allow it as he wasn’t a hotel guest. When he asked them to take down the original post, his request was denied. It wasn’t until the former employee contacted KwikChex, who used TripAdvisor’s private message system to contact the review author, that the post was removed – in August, five months after it was originally published.

Despite a partial victory, the loss of his job was humiliating and devastating for Keeler, who lost his health insurance and the house he was in the process of buying. He now makes only a fraction of what he was at the hotel.

While the former employee is still hoping to get his job back, he doesn’t believe it will happen.

[Image via Shutterstock]

Why Bolivia Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

Before traveling to Bolivia, I received mixed opinions on whether the country was a worthwhile destination to add to my itinerary. Because I wanted to find out for myself firsthand, I – thankfully – made sure I did. Now, Bolivia is one of my favorite travel destinations on the planet. Here’s why:

It Offers One-Of-A-Kind Adventures

Where else can you bike the world’s most dangerous road, explore the planet’s largest forest and hike the Earth’s longest continental mountain range all on one vacation? From La Paz, you can sign up to cycle the Death Road, a 43-mile narrow path with a steep drop-off known for being extremely dangerous. Bolivia also offers a gateway to the Amazon Jungle, and tours are often cheaper than from other countries. Once in Rurrenabaque, you can decide whether you want to go to The Amazon or The Pampas, which has excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, although it can be quite a harrowing experience. Additionally, the Andes Mountains run through Bolivia, and offer adventurous options like trekking, climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking, bird watching and more.It’s Budget-Friendly

Actually, it’s more than budget-friendly. To most Westerners, it’s downright cheap. Many have no problem traveling for less than $20 per day, depending on the activities done. With basic accommodation for less than $10 per night, local food for less than $1 and cheap transportation, you can spend a lot of time here for very little. For example, I actually complained once about having to pay $3 for a 20-minute cab ride. In Bolivia, that’s expensive. Moreover, one night a group of six new friends and I went to the Hard Rock Cafe, a more touristy option but also loved by locals, for a night out. All seven of us ordered food, drank cocktails nonstop and orders bottles of wine. At the end of the night, the bill was still less than $70 total.

The Locals Are Friendly

Before heading to Bolivia, I was warned about dangerous locals who were out to get tourists. This, as usual, was advice given to me by people who had never actually visited the country. In my experience, most of the locals I met were extremely friendly and excited to get to know more about my culture. A bit of Spanish may be necessary for this, as many Bolivians don’t speak English. Even so, if you need help most locals will try their best to point you in the right direction. Of course, watch your belongings and use common sense; however, I traveled through the country as a solo female and made it through without a problem.

There Is An Undiscovered Wine Region

While most travelers are aware of the delicious vinos to be had in Argentina and Chile, Tarija in Bolivia features an undiscovered wine region. Surprisingly enjoyable, what makes these grapes unique is they’re grown around 6,000 feet in elevation. Head to La Valle de la Concepción, or Conception Valley, which features boutique vineyards and bodegas to partake in wine tasting. Don’t expect upscale and precise wine creations like in the more popular places like Napa and Mendoza. Bolivian vino is simpler and less structured, nothing too complex but drinkable and fitting with the country’s seemingly unpretentious, “anything goes” philosophy.

You’ll View Unworldly Terrain

After journeying across the Soleli Desert, I am convinced Bolivia has the most unusual landscape on Earth. I witnessed hot pink lagoons filled with flamingos, sparkling yet toxic lakes, active and inactive volcanoes, enormous deadly geysers, surreal rock formations, an old train graveyard, smoking hot springs and the world’s largest salt desert, among other bizarre sights. From La Paz, I also went horseback riding through Moon Valley, which appears like a desert full of stalagmites and rainbow-colored mountains, reminding me once again how unusual yet beautiful the country’s landscape was.

You’ll Get High

In terms of altitude, Bolivia is a very high country. For example, at 11,975 feet, La Paz is the world’s highest de facto capital city. You’ll get to take part in some of the planet’s highest activities. Visit the world’s highest navigable lake, Lake Titicaca, at 12,464 feet, relax at the world’s highest beer spa in La Paz and take a cable car up to the tallest Jesus statue in the world, Christ de la Concordia, at 112.2 feet tall.

There Is A Vibrant Culture

Indigenous culture is visible in Bolivia, and visitors can witness locals in time-honored dress, taste traditional foods and learn about ancient customs. Even in the big cities like La Paz, you’ll see locals dressed in a traditional pollera skirt and bowler hat. Visitors can sample cuisine that has been influenced by the Andes region, with ingredients like corn, potatoes and quinoa, as well as the arrival of the Spaniards, with staples like rice, chicken and pork. Cultural festivals, like the indigenous Carnaval in Oruro, Alasitas in La Paz and La Virgen de las Nieves in Italque and Copacabana are still celebrated. You’ll also encounter rituals done for Pachamama, or “Mother Earth,” who provides life, food and safety for the people. For example, when toasting with a drink, locals will usually pour a bit on the floor in honor of Pachamama. Moreover, you can head to the “Witches’ Market” in La Paz and purchase a mummified llama fetus. When locals buy a new home, they offer the item to Pachamama by burying it under the foundation for good luck.

Visible History Still Exists Today

Through architecture, storytelling, ruins and colonial towns you’ll be able to learn much about Bolivia’s history. One of the most famous historical cities in Bolivia is Potosi. Founded in 1545, the city held an abundance of silver and was once the wealthiest city in all the Americas. Sadly, Potosi’s isn’t the happiest of stories, as many indigenous people died in the mines working in unimaginable working conditions, which are still visible today. Exploring Potosi, you’ll take in colonial architecture, grand churches, industrial monuments, artificial lakes, a complex aqueduct system and patrician houses. This, combined with the fact it’s such a prime example of a silver mine in modern times, has put Potosi on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

[Images via Jessie on a Journey]

5 Stages Of Travel Interactive Infographic

Saying that nearly 70 percent of all travelers begin planning online, Google has an infographic that details the five stages of travel. It’s a great look at how travelers move from merely dreaming about travel to sharing their travels with others.

Breaking the process down to Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing, this infographic is part of Google’s multi-media research library of case studies, interviews with thought leaders, sound bites from their industry events and more.

Want to know more about why we click what we click and do what we do online when researching travel? Dive deep into insights around how consumers decide on airlines, hotels, car rentals and cruises for their travel needs with a series of Google studies.

Covering topics ranging from “Media Consumption In Israel” to “Travelers Road To Decision 2011,” trend-setting Google studies have interesting facts on a variety of topics.

[Flickr photo by Scurzuzu]

Winter dreams can make for a great road trip season

Road trip season is more the stuff of winter dreams than reality this time of year. Snow, ice, frozen windshields and bad weather are not good reasons to get us in the car and out on the road. Broke after the holidays, cabin-fever starting to set in, it seems only natural to daydream about being someplace else. Psychologists say that’s perfectly normal and might even be helpful to planning future travels.

“Daydreaming is characterized by a shift of attention away from focusing on a physical or mental task to a series of thoughts derived from long-term memory (often taking a narrative form)” Psychologists Scott Barry Kaufman and Jerome L. Singer say in Scientific American.

Maybe now is the time to pull up those photos from the last road trip, vacation or travel of any kind and re-live those memories. Apparently, we might already be thinking of them anyway.Daydreaming, or mind-wandering “may serve multiple adaptive functions, such as future planning, sorting out current concerns, cycling through different information streams, distributed learning (vs. cramming), and creativity” note Kaufman and Singer.

In other words, when we daydream we may appear to be doing nothing but in reality, things are going on behind the scenes, much like a computer might perform routine maintenance tasks that are also not displayed.

This video tells more about how daydreaming can result in some of the best, most creative travel plans. Pay attention. Really.

Flickr photo by strudelt

Build your own adventure with the Africa Safari Planner

The Africa Safari Planner, a newly launched website from adventure travel company Natural Habit Adventures, gives travelers the ability to create their own custom trips to the African bush. The site, which launched earlier this week, provides options to visit nine different countries, and stay in over 300 unique camps, while encountering some of the most spectacular wildlife on the planet.

The process begins by selecting which months you would prefer to travel in, and indicating the number of people in your group. From there, you’ll be presented with options for travel in both Eastern and Southern Africa, in such countries as Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Namibia. After selecting a starting destination, travelers are then given the choice of several single and multi-country routes for their African adventure, which then prompts the site to suggest possible camps to stay in for each day of the journey. Those camps are broken down into categories based on price, giving the customer the ability to budget accordingly.

That said, there isn’t much that is “budget” about these tours. They definitely fall into the upscale category, and travelers on these custom safaris aren’t exactly roughing it. No matter which camps they choose to visit, they’ll have their own comfortable rooms, complete with large beds and private showers. They’ll also enjoy gourmet meals in spacious dining rooms and access to a host of other amenities while at the lodge. Of course, you don’t go to Africa to hang out at the lodge, and each of the camps offers unique options for viewing the wildlife as well.

If you’re looking for a truly once-in-a-lifetime journey, and don’t mind paying for it, then this is an excellent tool for creating your own custom safari itinerary. There are less expensive alternatives for booking a trip to Africa, but few offer this kind of flexibility and options for travelers.