Growing up in a small town in Oregon, my life was like that of most middle-class Americans. A trip most likely involved visiting relatives, punctuated by roadside sightseeing. At 17, desperate to experience more of the world, I backpacked across Costa Rica, staying in hostels and renting rooms from expats who set up shop on the dusty roads of Tamarindo. Everyone I met came from somewhere else. Some dropped into the country with a guidebook and simply never got around to leaving.
I’ve spent more than 15 years traveling the globe, sometimes alone, sometimes broke, sometimes with enough money to get a room with a view and other times sleeping upright on overnight trains. Across 32 countries and countless experiences, I’ve found there are three variables consistently important on every trip: time, money, and security.
Now, years later, I have the privilege and enormous responsibility of running part of the world’s largest travel information platform. As a group president, I’m responsible for leading a global team making sure TripAdvisor builds products and services that make travel better. Together, we feel it’s our responsibility to empower our community with safety information that keeps them traveling.
The need for better access to safety information while traveling has never been greater. Today’s culture of always-on news has made it increasingly difficult to discern fact from fiction, while safety-related information about specific neighborhoods or businesses is often hard to find or nonexistent online. Often, something tragic must happen in order to engage in a dialogue about traveler safety, which by then is far too late.
According to a recent study, 67 percent of travelers say a destination’s “safety and security” matter most. For many women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and persons with accessibility needs, obtaining information on travel safety can be a matter of life and death.
As part of our commitment to provide travelers with better access to critical safety information, TripAdvisor is unveiling new features that make it easier to find reviews that contain reports of safety-related incidents. We will also engage TripAdvisor’s global community of travelers, businesses and tourism destinations as we work to share important information and insights about how to stay safe.
Starting today, travelers worldwide can use two new features on our platform to help them find safety-related information:
A traveler safety review filter:
The safety filter allows travelers to more easily surface the following reviews in the 28 languages that TripAdvisor makes available:
- Reviews that were posted in the past year concerning sexual assaults and sexual misconduct by employees of a business, with reviews about other safety categories added on a rolling basis.
- All new reviews that concern safety issues, including sexual assault, death, drugging, sex trafficking, armed robbery, and physical assault.
A notice on all reviews with safety content:
A notice now appears at the top of each review that contains safety information to make it easier for travelers to distinguish these from other reviews.
We allow travelers to share their experiences on our platform, but we also ensure that businesses can respond. When a safety concern is raised in a review, we know that travelers want to understand whether the management has taken action to resolve it. We encourage business owners to use our Management Response feature to publicly communicate what they have done to address travelers’ concerns.
These solutions are just the start of our commitment to elevating safety information on TripAdvisor. Throughout the coming months, we’ll be conducting extensive user research to understand what features will provide the most benefit to our global community (for example, whether a hotel has 24/7 security or the surrounding neighborhood is walkable at night). Additionally, we look forward to working with the global tourism industry to highlight safety as a basic human expectation for travelers.
Lastly, we understand that traveler needs and safety concerns will continue to evolve, and our platform will, too. We also recognize that we won’t always get it right, but we will continue to ask for feedback from our community and make changes as we go.
Today, I still often travel alone. I go out at night, talk to strangers, and take trips to places that may be undergoing periods of instability. Being empowered with information is not about doing less; it’s about knowing more and arbitrating our own risk. I’m committed to creating a conversation among the TripAdvisor community that is preventative and empowering so that generations to come can experience the liberty of the open road, free from harm.