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Published on Friday, October 1, 2010

Hotel guest blacklist website irks privacy campaigners



 A Bristol company that has launched a hotel guest blacklist website has prompted a privacy watchdog to call for a government enquiry.

GuestScan.co.uk offers hoteliers the chance to find out if people who have booked a stay at their property have caused any problems to other hoteliers in the past, such as non-payment or room destruction.
 
The website gathers its information by allowing hoteliers to share their experiences of individuals but watchdog Privacy International says the site is “despicable” and “probably illegal”.
 
However, the site has written approval from government body the Information Commissioner's Office and is registered under the Data Protection Act.
 
While Guestscan assures customers that all information on guests and their behaviour has been checked and verified before being posted, Privacy International’s spokesman Alex Hanff said that the company had misrepresented its purpose when registering with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
 
He said it had suggested the main purpose of the site was staff administration and PR when in fact it was clearly about presenting a hotel guest hall of shame.
 
Guestscan’s official registration does, however, list an objective as “keeping a client behaviour log”.
 
Hanff says the matter is now being taken up with the Information Commissioner.
 
On Guestscan’s website, there is an endorsement from the Bed and Breakfast  Association’s chief executive David Weston as well as one from the chief executive of the English Association of Self-Catering Operators Martin Sachs.
 
Guestscan creator Neil Campbell told Travelmole: “'There has been a lot of misinformation about the site. We do not hold any details on people's sexual orientation, race or religion and we do not have a hall of shame.
 
"If you are a member of the site and you want to check out someone who has booked with you, you put in the name, address and telephone and we will inform you if there has been a problem with them.
 
"What you can't do is trawl through a list of names. This all allows small hoteliers and B&B owners to make their mind up about a booking."
 
He added that all the people on the blacklist were informed.
 
Campbell said the site, which started on September 15, would have 10,000 members within the next two weeks.
 
*What’s your view on Guestscan? Travelmole would love to read your views so make a comment.


 by Dinah Hatch

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  • Wrong end of the stick

    I think we're going off message here with Trip Advisor. Guests doing damage or not paying are unlikely to report their reasons why to Trip Advisor for hoteliers to respond to. Guestscan is more to do with prevention than cure and should be given a chance to succeed or fail on its merits. A little more research amongst businesses themselves would, however, prove useful and we shall poll our members and report back.

    By Terry Jackson, Friday, October 8, 2010

  • Hoteliers: just use Trip Advisor yourselves

    Good to see some balance at last in this discussion from Robin Redmile-Gordon. I can't see Guestscan succeeding at all. The overwhelming majority of guests behave fairly and properly even when facilities aren't up to scratch, while most owners can't afford to turn away guests -~or to ask reservations staff or agents to check names against a supposed blacklist first. I'm always amazed by the lack of response from property owners on Trip Advisor. Anyone can sign up and while selling isn't allowed, you can use your company name and put your own point of view to counter reviews or forum posts you consider unfair so that users can see both sides. When thoughtful owners do make their voices heard, the tone of the conservation among clients or would-be clients changes completely. There's no need for Guestscan.

    By Richard Trillo, Wednesday, October 6, 2010

  • Interjecting a little balance into the discussion

    It's not hard to interpret the vested interest of most of the correspondents so far. As someone who neither owns nor runs an accommodation establishment and has never trashed an hotel room or left without paying, I'd like to add my own voice. I have spent a lifetime staying in hotels the world over, from the very best to some frankly appalling establishments. Those who view this as comeuppance for the reputation battering they may have suffered courtesy of tripadvisor and similar review sites need to take stock a little. As a guest I am essentially powerless to put right the deficiencies in the places in which I have stayed. I have no idea what to expect before I get there and I have no control over the quality and service I encounter. The hoteliers, on the other hand, have complete ability to control what I, as a guest, do in their premises and they have the ability to impose procedures to ensure they get paid. Review sites are the only recourse guests have - and most of the time hoteliers would do well to take note of the comments which always contain a seed of truth in them. Guests on the other hand are powerless to control what spurious accusations may be made against them and which may now result in being blacklisted. This is a gross and over-excited reaction to a limited problem. As in all things, as someone has already pointed out here, if I planned to abuse your hospitality then I'd simply give you a false name and so, once again, when privacy is outlawed, only the outlaws have privacy. ..and by the way, all this is being driven by a commercial imperative, not some benevolent objective of improving the education of guests and hoteliers alike. It's an abomination and I trust Privacy International will be successful in their campaign to close it down.

    By Robin Redmile-Gordon, Monday, October 4, 2010

  • Vested interest is not such a bad thing

    People responding to this issue at TravelMole are bound to have a vested interest but that doesn't make them wrong. It's ultimately the good guests that have to foot the cost of damage, theft and rising insurance costs so they have a vested interest too: * 3 million Britons damaged property when visiting UK hotels. * UK guests checked out with £5m worth of stolen bathrobes. * 80% of guests have taken something as a memento of their stay. * 336,000 beds have been broken. * 672,000 electrical items (kettles, irons, hairdryers etc) needed to be replaced. * Over 300,000 TV sets ruined. Source: 'More Than Business' over a 5 year period. Not all of this will be malicious but if those that that do willing or unsociable damage can be quietly identified and dealt with in a responsible manner, they will eventually run out of credit. I see no indication that Guestscan are adopting anything other than a responsible approach to this and they should be given the space to prove themselves effective.

    By Terry Jackson, Monday, October 4, 2010

  • GuestScan

    About time ... comments by disgruntled or unscrupulous guests on Tripadvisor have brought accommodation establishments to the brink of collapse. If GuestScan can prove their integrity, I think it will make people think twice before trashing a property or walking off without paying! (or making nasty unfounded comments on Tripadvisor)

    By Norma Meyer, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Guestscan no different to credit rating agencies

    I can see little difference in principle between the service Guestscan is providing and those provided by, say, Equifax or Experian. As long as there is no list of names that can be trawled through, the culprits' identities remain safe from casual observers. It's guests that don't pay or cause damage to property that are despicable, not Guestscan's website, which seeks to provide a legitimate service. I think Alex Hanff is a little over the top in painting a picture of a 'hotel guest hall of shame; it's a clever headline but an inaccurate one.

    By Terry Jackson, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Not .COM but .CO.UK

    guestscan.co.uk and guestscan.com are two very different services.

    By Richard Ashford, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • About time too!

    So, the tables have turned and the consumers don't like it? Well, tough,I'd say. I recall there being an unofficial travel blacklist way back in the 80s when operators got sick of professional complainers who went from company to company seeking refunds and compensation for the most spurious of reasons. If hotel and travel review sites are allowed to exist, then let's have a level playing field and allow travel companies to name and shame so long as it is legal, fair and justifiable.

    By Hoda Lacey, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Client Black List

    It's about time!! Clients are so quick to 'bad mouth' hotels and their services.

    By Carole Cooper, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Come on, fair's fair

    Am I reading this right? Customers can leave feedback on public internet sites slamming [alleged] poor service from tour operators,travel companies,accommodation providers and the like, but Privacy International object when this facility works ,and privately at that,the other way round. The customer is not always right!

    By richardandjudy, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • vendetta

    the trouble is if these people are trouble makers then surely as a vendetta they will book a room in another persons name wont they?

    By sharon bowen, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • GuestScan a welcome tool

    GuestScan is nothing more than a way for hotelier's to fight back against tripadvisor. I have long advocated a mirror website that allows us to highlight the bad behaviour of guests.

    By Simon Bennett, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • ABOUT TIME

    Hoteliers need some protection against the claim culture, that not just hoteliers but other sectors of business are encountering

    By SEAN HARTE, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Love this!

    Finally an opportunity for us hoteliers to list and rate those that are posting defamatory, malicious and false reviews about us on review sites. Isn't it interesting how we as an industry are desperately trying to beg for anti defamation laws to be applied concerning illegal reviews of our establishments and nobody in the governments come to our aide, but as soon as we have a vehicle in which to warn others of malicious, fraudulent, and damaging guests,(those that even blackmail us for upgrades threatening bad reviews) the government runs in to take issue with it. I see this as a win win situation though. We can all participate, and make sure not to accept blacklisted persons, OR if the government blocks it, then maybe they can block ALL review sites. They can't have it both ways. they have to protect every bodies reputations, not just a select and privileged few.

    By Vasilis Petrakis, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Tit for tat

    Well, customers have tripadvisor, so why shouldn't hoteliers have their site where they can research possible problem clients. How about one for tour operators?

    By Noel Josephides, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • This is a fantastic scheme!

    In a world where we bend over backwards to accommodate the privacy and human rights of those that deliberately do wrong, it's great to see someone standing up for the rights of those who are wronged. I hope this will burst the privacy dam for such issues. For instance, I have long said there should be just such a site for landlords to check on prospective tenants that have defaulted on rent and/or damaged rented property. The argument against doing this is always about 'privacy' but the argument is flawed because such 'blacklists' already exist in the form of credit checking sites such as Experian. Unfortunately, Experian doesn't highlight such landlord tenant issues, just as it wouldn't highlight a large hotel bill default. So, something better is needed. If you don't do anything to warrant being blacklisted, you should have nothing to worry about!

    By Mary McDougall, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Open to abuse

    The problem with anything like this is it is open to abuse (just like similar tools such as tripadvisor). In principle it makes sense, but as always the devil is in the detail of how this is managed in a fair and transparent way. A clear code of practice, notification to blacklisted guests and a transparent appeals process are vital - but given the low annual cost, how can this be achieved? I am skeptical that this can be done properly on the annual fees being charged.

    By Richard Ashford, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Loop-Hole

    If Guests know they are on the Hit-List they will just use another name.

    By Garry Fielding, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • A riposte to TripAdvisor

    A riposte to TripAdvisor that allows potentially defamatory remarks to be made without any real comeback.

    By Mark Tennent, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • A riposte to TripAdvisor

    A riposte to TripAdvisor that allows potentially defamatory remarks to be made without any real comeback.

    By Mark Tennent, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • Makes Cents to me

    As a longstanding member of the travel & tourism industry here in southern Africa, this opportunity for properties to be aware of possible serial room destroyers/amenities stealers and non payers is an excellent idea. There is a real risk to properties in this regard and often at considerable cost for the owner. We have a similar development underway with FEDHASA our hotel & accomodation association for the benefit of their members. Being forewarned is simply a good business process. Ciao Colin J. FRYER, Cape Town - South Africa.

    By Colin J FRYER, Friday, October 1, 2010

  • This concept is not new

    The insurance industry has been circulating information amongst its members about persistent claimants etc for many years, so I don't see what is different about this. It's not as though you can check a list of names etc nor is it a public site.

    By ken faulkner, Friday, October 1, 2010

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