It follows a recent article by Marina O’Loughlin, restaurant critic at The Guardian Weekend magazine, which claimed the review site was full of ‘fakes and idiots’ with the potential to ruin independent businesses.
“A huge number of otherwise sensible people continue to give credence to the aggregated opinion of, at best, unqualified strangers,” she said.
“Small restaurants with bottom lines that live or die by a few tables a week are wearily resigned to it: they can’t afford court cases when the site is deaf to their entreaties.”
Help for unknown restaurants
But Kaufer argued in a blog post that the site gave ‘travellers a global platform and a voice’ and helped improve service standards in the hospitality industry.
While he did not name O’Loughlin, he referred to the views of a ‘professional food critic’ and added that he ‘disagreed with almost all of them’.
“Our community has helped small businesses all over the world reach a global audience, to grow and succeed based on the quality of their project and the service they offer, not the size of their budgets or the savviness of their marketing efforts,” he said.
He added that the ‘vast majority’ of reviews were positive, with hotels scoring an average four out of a five point bubble scale.
Industry hits back
The hospitality industry has long had a rocky relationship with the online reviews giant, with many businesses fearful that an inaccurate or malicious review could lead to their ruin.
The site has come under fire for its reliance on older reviews, which some restaurants claim has stuck them with a poor rating.
In 2015 a Twitter campaign #noreceiptnoreview called on TripAdvisor to only allow users to post reviews if they could provide a receipt as proof of their visit.
But Kaufer argued that the process would be unfair to the majority of customers.
He wrote: “Imagine a world in which no-one was allowed to express their opinion about the latest blockbuster movie unless they could produce a cinema ticket to prove they had seen it. I hope we wouldn’t tolerate such an obstacle to the freedom to express our points of view.
“Yet some people believe exactly that when it comes to people enjoying a meal out. What about the opinion of that guest who didn’t pick up the check?”
He added that ‘most attempts’ at fraud were committed by a minority of business owners, who could easily print fake receipts to boost their own profile.
Despite the criticisms, TripAdvisor continues to grow, with Kaufer reportedly pocketing more than $39m in 2013.
Over 230 new pieces of content are posted on the site per minute and it receives 340m unique users a month.
Kaufer signed off his post by admitting that though TripAdvisor wasn’t ‘perfect’ it had ultimately helped ‘countless deserving small businesses’ get discovered.
“Professional critics are free to disagree, but I am going to stand by the hundreds of millions of travellers and millions of business owners who also know from their own experience that TripAdvisor is a force for good,” he wrote.
O’Loughlin took to Twitter in response to say that the CEO’s post was ‘a result’.