Archive for September, 2010

Hotel ousts couple after accusing them of writing negative TripAdvisor review

September 30th, 2010 by Mariah

A British couple says they were kicked out of their hotel after the hotel manager accused them of writing a negative review on TripAdvisor and called the police.


Adrian Healey, 33, tells the Blackpool Gazette that earlier this month, he’d booked a room a hotel in the seaside resort of Blackpool, England, to take his first vacation with his girlfriend Sherrie Andrews, 33, since being diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago.




But the Golden Beach Hotel’s manager asked them to leave two days into their paid, three-night stay, they told the Gazette, adding that the manager stormed into their room, accused them of writing an online review and called the police.


“We had been there a day when they said we couldn’t get back in our rooms because they were re-carpeting, and we didn’t complain. All we asked was if we could have an extra towel,” Healey tells the paper.




“Then, on our second evening, he banged on the door and told us to get out, accusing us of writing a review on Trip Advisor, and said he would call the police,” Healey says.




“I was shocked when the police arrived, and we just agreed to leave,” Healey tells the Gazette. “We asked for a refund but the hotel refused. I think it is shocking and people need to know about this.”



Hotel management declined to comment when contacted by paper.



Blackpool police confirmed that they had been called to the Golden Beach Hotel to remove a man who had not committed a crime.



“No offence had been committed by the couple, but the manager had requested them to leave the property,” the paper quotes a police official as saying. “We advised the couple how to go about getting a refund. This is a civil matter.”


Welcome to our newest member!

September 29th, 2010 by Mariah

With its 300+ acres of pristine wilderness and untamed beauty, River Ranch Bed and Breakfast is one of the most beautiful natural retreats in North America. Located in the picturesque historic town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, River Ranch has been known to only a privileged few, who for many years have come to unwind, reconnect and rejuvenate.Discover a land where life moves at a more leisurely pace, following the rhythmic ebb and flow of the Bouie River. Nestled on a private wildlife preserve, River Ranch is a tranquil 5-room, authentic, hand hewn log cabin Bed & Breakfast that seamlessly blends the elegance of a bygone era with the modern amenities and conveniences the discriminating traveler expects.Thoughtfully perched on the banks of the Bouie, River Ranch is the perfect escape for a romantic weekend getaway, weddings, family gatherings, corporate events or an extended vacation. The Suites are designed in classic style, reflecting a timeless Southern architectural heritage. Pine floors, vaulted ceilings and spectacular views welcome you into your very own private hideaway.For the ultimate in style and comfort we offer one and two-bedroom suites, as well as as “The Penthouse Suite” that encompasses the entire top floor of the Lodge. Each suite is luxuriously appointed, creating a warm atmosphere to relax and enjoy friends and family. If complete privacy, luxury and convenience are what you are looking for, consider reserving the entire Lodge for your Wedding, Church Retreat, Corporate Event or Family Gathering. We offer a 20% discount when reserving the entire Lodge. A minimum two night stay is required and additional restrictions may apply.Our peaceful and secluded Bed and Breakfast, is conveniently located just 2 miles from Interstate 59 and the newly completed Evelyn Gandy Parkway; and just 3 miles from US Highway 49 and Peps Point Road. A great location if you are visiting the University of Southern Mississippi, The Long Leaf Trace or Camp Shelby.With 300 nature-packed acres to discover, you will enjoy the 10+ miles of groomed trails perfect for hiking or biking. Take a stroll past the 4-acre stocked fishing pond on your way to Deep Woods Trail or Rankin Run and be sure to stop by The Artisan Well for a drink of the coldest, purest water you have ever tasted. Bring your camera along because you are sure to spot plenty of wildlife on your journey.River Ranch’s Concierge Service allows you to make your getaway experience exactly what you want it to be. Your innkeepers are happy to make reservations for any of the restaurants or activities on your behalf allowing you to fully enjoy your vacation. The innkeeper’s relationship with local providers means that many of the activities such as concert and theater tickets, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, fishing, camping, picnicking, horseback riding and in-room spa treatments can be arranged in advance.River Ranch is a member of The Professional Association of Innkeepers International and is considered one of the most unique lodging facilities in the Southeast. River Ranch is highly ranked on Ranch Bed and Breakfast. A 300-acre paradise just waiting to enrich your soul and energize your spirit.River Ranch Bed & Breakfast “A Bed & Breakfast”655 River RoadHattiesburg, MS. 39401USA Innkeepers:Tiffany & Steve ParrishRates: $99.00-$125.00 USD Rooms: 5Phone: 601-422-7575 Toll Free: 800-500-4050 Fax: 601-450-7111

Oprah Plans To Open Bed and Breakfast

September 28th, 2010 by Mariah

OPRAH Winfrey is reportedly planning to build her own bed and breakfast in Hawaii!


The TV talk show host — whose The Oprah Winfrey Show is in its last season — is renovating a 12-bedroom inn on the island of Maui that will be low-key, rustic retreat.


“Oprah’s planning on having a high-end bed and breakfast for her friends and wealthy customers who like the quiet of the Mai countryside ,” a source told American tabloid the National Enquirer.



“It will be a place for people to rest and reflect.”



“Oprah plans to personally play hostess on the ranch when she is on the island.”

Berlin Insider Tips

September 28th, 2010 by Mariah

Berlin, Germany, mixes the old and the new, the west and the east with creativity and culture. Once the center of attention for a worldwide controversy (remember the Berlin Wall?), it’s now an increasingly popular European destination.




The city is made up of 23 distinct, character-filled districts and is home to the Reichstag, the Berliner Dome and the Brandenburg Gate. But it’s the areas outside the typical tourist locations that offer the real flavor of the capital.




CNN International reporter Frederik Pleitgen has lived in Berlin since 2000. He shares his favorite city spots in this CNN Insider Trip Tips:




What’s the biggest misconception about your city?



That it must be a really expensive place. In fact, there are very few cities that offer more quality of life for very little money.




How do tourists stick out, and what’s the best way to blend in?



Grungy clothes usually help to blend in. Looking too smart is usually a mistake. Dress down to blend in.




Which restaurant would you take your loved one to for an anniversary or other special occasion?



Hartmanns in downtown Kreuzberg has lovely food at affordable prices and a lovely atmosphere.




Where do you go to relax?



Café am Neuen See, a beer garden in the Tiergarten (Berlin’s Central Park) with a lovely lake in the middle. If you want to work out after having a cold beer, you can rent a rowboat.




Where is the best place to people-watch?



The cafes in Prenzlauer Berg near the Kollwitzplatz are wonderful places to watch people in the summer.




Where can you get the best view of the city?



The top of the broadcast tower in central Berlin offers a beautiful view of the city, but the Dome in the Reichstag is also wonderful.




What is your favorite neighborhood? Why?



My favorite neighborhood is Charlottenburg around the Kurfuerstendamm because it offers big city flair and yet is laid-back and easygoing.




What essential thing should visitors see/experience if they only have a few hours?



Walk through the Brandenburg Gate!




What’s the biggest tourist trap? Is there a “tourist trap” that’s actually worth seeing?



The tourist trap worth seeing is the Reichstag, which always has really long lines to queue up, but inside you can see the entire history of Europe in the 20th century. From graffiti the Russian soldiers left when they moved into Berlin at the end of World War II to the great modern architecture of the unified Germany that was built into the shell of the old Reichstag.




Where’s your favorite place to spend a night out on the town?



Panorama, located in Berghain, is one of the coolest clubs in the world.




Are there local specialty dishes or drinks that visitors must try?



Currywurst from the restaurant Curry 36 — though that is not everybody’s thing. Currywurst is a Berlin dish with a massive cut-up sausage that has ketchup and curry sauce poured over it. You should eat it with fries with ketchup and mayo and a beer.




Berlin, Germany (CNN)

Fun Fall Craft Idea!

September 24th, 2010 by Mariah

Celebrate the splendor of autumn with colorful fresh flowers displayed in a plump pumpkin vase. In about an hour you can create a dazzling centerpiece rich with tones and hues of the season.


You will need:


  • One 8″ diameter pumpkin, with 6″ diameter top removed and insides scooped out
  • Small plastic container to fit into pumpkin
  • Floral foam
  • Floral tape
  • 12 leatherleaf fern tips, each 5″-7″ long
  • 5 pencil cattails: two 7″ long, two 9″ long and one 12″ long
  • 15 bronze pompon chrysanthemums, each 10″ – 12″ long
  • 9 yellow pompon chrysanthemums, each 6″ – 8″ long
  • 12 yellow asters, each 6″ – 8″ long
  • 8 stems preserved oak leaves
  • Utility knife
  • Scissors



What you do:



Place container in pumpkin. Measure and cut floral foam to fit container so that top of foam extends 1/2″ over rim of pumpkin; secure foam and container to pumpkin with floral tape.



Insert leatherleaf ferns into foam around rim of pumpkin, spacing evenly. Insert shorter pieces in top of foam to completely cover foam. Insert five cattails at top of arrangement at varying heights.



Insert 15 stems of bronze pompons into foam at varying heights, spacing evenly: Place one 12″-long flower near center top of foam and several flowers around rim of pumpkin; then place remaining flowers above the bottom flowers.



Insert one 8″-long yellow pompon at top of foam and four 6″-long pompons, evenly spaced, around rim of pumpkin. Insert remaining four yellow pompons halfway up to top yellow pompon and in between the four yellow pompons at bottom.



Insert yellow aster stems into foam, spacing evenly between the yellow and bronze pompons. Insert oak leaves around rim of arrangement. Fill container with water; check water level daily. Place arrangement on shallow dish or place mat to protect furniture from marks or spills.

Never Stayed In a Bed and Breakfast? Click Here.

September 20th, 2010 by Mariah



The bed and breakfast industry began to blossom in the U.S. during the 1980s, and B&Bs thrive today in large part because they provide an atmosphere of warmth and coziness that traditional hotels simply can’t match — although many are now trying.




Most bed and breakfasts are owned by the innkeepers, who usually live on the premises. It’s natural to expect that innkeepers who live in their own inns will bring a different perspective to the job than someone who works a shift behind a hotel reception desk and then goes home and forgets about the customers left behind.




At good B&Bs, “customers” are truly guests, and it shows. Innkeepers will gladly help you find the best restaurant in town, point you to the most romantic spot in the nearby park, and much more.




Most bed and breakfasts generate a substantial portion of their income from repeat business. Many also depend on word-of-mouth recommendations. Combine those two factors and it’s easy to see why most innkeepers go out of their way to make sure your stay provides some great memories.




To get started on planning your first (of many) Bed and Breakfast vacations click here!

Need a place to stay for the Bourne Scallop Fest? Rock Village Bed and Breakfast is the place for you!

September 17th, 2010 by Mariah


Need a place to stay for the Bourne Scallop Fest? Rock Village Bed and Breakfast is the place for you!


This Antique Victorian Painted Lady is situated on 23.80 acres of land. If the gentle ruins of an old greyhound track do not relax you maybe the stream or pond will. The architecture and history of this property will sit you back on our wrap around porch to reflect upon a time unknown to us. Centrally located Middleboro, is forty minutes from Boston, and twenty minutes from Plymouth and the Cape Cod Canal.



Charles Neil Atwood built this home in 1860 and employed over 90 people in the village. The home’s entrance greets you with Corinthian columns and a wood carved staircase. Further on pass the pocket doors is the dining room containing an antique tiled fireplace. Turn to the right and the library’s tiger oak bookcases invite you to sit for a while. Next door the ribbed ceiling foyer opens up to a three season porch crowned with copper. Come see the original tiles of Victorian tulip and seashells. Your stay at the Inn is your special time away. Our wonderful atmosphere and our knowledge of the area will make it one of the most delightful and memorable experiences you’ll ever enjoy. New Harvey Windows and new electrical wiring were installed in all bedrooms at Rock Village Bed and Breakfast this winter. All rooms are properly ventilated for our customers.



Rock Village Bed and Breakfast


“A Bed & Breakfast”

109 Miller St.

Middleboro, MA. 02346



Bill and Doreen Sullivan

Rates: $70.00-$130.00USD

Rooms: 6

Phone: 508-947-3413

Fax: 508-947-7631

41st Annual Bourne Scallop Fest

September 17th, 2010 by Mariah



41st Annual Bourne Scallop Fest, Its SO much more than Scallops!

Its SO much more than Scallops! Celebrated up and down the East Coast, the Bourne Scallop Fest is recognized with distinction given the “Best Festival Award” by Cape Cod Life Magazine and awarded a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association. The Fest takes place the third weekend after Labor Day, on September 24, 25 & 26, from 10am to 10pm on Friday and Saturday, 10am to 6pm on Sunday.

Over 55,000 patrons are expected to come into Buzzards Bay along the banks of the famous Cape Cod Canal and Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge. Families will see spectacular views, listen to non-stop entertainment, have fun at the midway of rides and games for the kids, and enjoy the best scallops around. In addition to over 3 tons of scallops that will be consumed, people have plenty of other choices including herb-roasted chicken, lobster rolls, chowder, salads, raw bar, hamburgers, hotdogs, specialty coffees, desserts, and much more. Cheese samplings will accompany the wine offered by Coastal Wine Trail representing nine local wineries. Harpoon Brewery will supply the beer.

Marie Oliva, President & CEO, of the Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber expressed: “This isn’t your average festival. The community has a big stake in the event, helping to make sure the Fest is superbly organized and enjoyable. Well over 500 volunteers ranging from residents, businesses, and local officials man the Fest with each person receiving a free meal and a T-shirt for a 4 hour shift. It’s the type of event that truly brings everyone together for a great time. And the economic stimulus for the town and the region is an added plus.”

General Admission is only $5 – children 12 and under admitted FREE. FREE parking is available at the newly paved and landscaped parking lot by the canal owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

New this year, Friday night only, Rockwell Amusement is offering a “Wrist Band Night”. Families can purchase a $20 “wrist band” per child and ride all the rides from Friday at 3pm to close at 10pm using the wristband. A great deal for the family! A new juried Craft Show will be managed by Castleberry Fairs & Festivals from New Hampshire, bringing over 120 vendors selling unique and distinctive products.

Live entertainment includes our popular headliner, ENTRAIN from Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday night at 7pm. Children will enjoy Toe Jam Puppet Band for two shows on Saturday and the Tall Tex Greeters, costumed characters on stilts and always a big hit with families.

The weekend line up includes local favorites Stage Door Canteen, Danny Banks and his All Star Band and the Dan Lawson Band. Sunday, we are fortunate to welcome back the Navy’s Northeast Show Band at Noon. For a complete entertainment schedule, go to

The Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber is a not-for-profit corporation that raises funds to help the community in various ways. Proceeds from the Fest help pay for the Chamber’s scholarship program, food pantries, Friends of the Bourne Council on Aging, and operation of visitor centers that service the traveling public.

Over thirty (30) businesses sponsor the Bourne Scallop Festival including: Title Sponsors – TD Bank and On the Water; Premier Sponsors – Falmouth Hospital; Presenting Sponsors – Harpoon Brewery & Coastal Wine Trail; Major Sponsors – Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Cape Cod, and Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office; Media Sponsors – COOL 102, WEEI 96.3 Sports Radio, WCOD106, 95WXTK and Southcoast Media Group; Supporting Sponsors –A.D. Makepeace Co., Southcoast Hospitals Group-Tobey Hospital, and Wareham Crossing; Business Sponsors – Bouse House Enterprise, Inc., Buckler’s Towing Service, Cape Cod Central Railroad, Country Club Enterprises, LLC and Hy-Line Cruises; Contributing Sponsors – Amerigas, at&t Mobility, Barnstable County Fair, Convention Data Services and Falmouth Toyota Scion. Breakfast And Lunch Sponsors – Cosi Café, Dunkin’ Donuts – Couto Management, Flip Flops Café, IHOP, Lindsey’s Family Restaurant, Longhorn Steakhouse, Mezza Luna Restaurant, Red Robin Gourmet Burger, The Sagamore Inn and Tihonet Village Market.

Think an online review crosses the line? With the law favoring websites, challenging it wont be easy.

September 14th, 2010 by Mariah


Think an online review crosses the line? With the law favoring websites, challenging it wont be easy.

In today’s online-obsessed culture, every guest is a critic and every hotel faces a bad review from time to time. Even the famed Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris does not have a perfect score on TripAdvisor.


But a recent email campaign from TripAdvisor went too far, according to Chris Emmins, co-founder of the UK-based reputation management site KiwkChex. The email, with the subject line “Don’t go there. Hotel Horror Stories!” singled out a dozen hotels and linked to a terrible review for each of them.


At best, it’s terrible public relations for the hotels. At worst, Emmins contends, it breaks the law. While many of the hotels had additional negative reviews on TripAdvisor, some of them actually were recommended by a majority of reviewers.


“It’s come from TripAdvisor and not their members,” he said of the e-mail piece. “How could they do this and hide behind the phrase ‘user-generated content’?”


In the U.S., many frustrated hoteliers have read bad reviews they are convinced came from competing hotels, disgruntled ex-employees or guests who are being unreasonable. Managers sometimes have the ability to reply to bad reviews, but can find that’s not enough to salvage their reputations.


Because of broad protections given to publishers of websites in the 1996 Communications Decency Act, there is little hoteliers can do, even in the face of defamation.


“Online, Congress has given a special, very broad safe harbor to folks like TripAdvisor, and that has repeatedly been upheld by the courts,” said Jack Lerner, a professor at the University of Southern California Law School who specializes in Internet law. “The idea is, otherwise it would be too risky to be the service provider.”


In the case of the “Hotel Horrors” email, Lerner said the legality would depend on how much original content TripAdvisor created, as well as whether the stories were true. He said the law would not protect sites that edit the substance of a user’s comment or that induce the content.


“It’s a fine line that Congress has drawn,” Lerner said. They have given a lot of protections to these websites so they can operate freely and not have to be looking over their shoulder the entire time. That’s a tough sell to people who are getting defamed out there.”


TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter declined to comment on the matter or to speak more broadly about how the site monitors user comments. Instead, he linked to information about the site’s practices of using a team of moderators to examine questionable reviews and an automated system that flags questionable content. It also said that TripAdvisor relies on its users to police the site themselves.


Bill Hart, an attorney with the Manhattan firm Proskauer who specializes in technology issues, said situations similar to the “Hotel Horror” email could be in a “gray area” of the law. In general, sites cannot go beyond publishing user statements without giving up their immunity, he said. If they make conclusions from the reviews, it could be problematic.


Hoteliers do have the option of taking action against the person who posted the objectionable content, Hart said, but typically sites will not disclose the identity of users without a lawsuit or subpoena. Even if a hotelier sues a site to compel it to disclose a user’s identity, the site may not have required that person to register, or the user may have given a bogus name or email address.


Hart said another risk is that a lawsuit could bring even more attention to the negative comments.



Emmins said he has not found TripAdvisor to be responsive when his company contacted it on behalf of hospitality and tourism clients seeking to clean up their online reputation. When KwikChex brought concerns over reviews to Google Maps, for instance, Emmins said the company reviewed the evidence and removed the offending material.



“TripAdvisor for some reason has gone down the route of using the reviews in their own marketing materials and embarking on a remarkably intransigent policy,” he said. “That’s why they have been singled out.”



KwikChex’s goals are to have TripAdvisor remove reviews that are more than two years old, that advise people to visit a specific competing hotel instead, or that contain insults without a constructive review (one-word posts that simply say “Crap,” for instance).



Emmins also objected to the site describing anonymous reviewers as “trusted”, since there is no authentication system to make sure reviewers are actual customers.



As a test, Emmins said KwikChex examined 100 reviews that mentioned food poisoning and cross-checked with local health authority records and with management at the particular hotel and restaurants. It did not find any official complaints.



He acknowledged that not everyone would file a complaint but felt the numbers told a story. Without verification, anonymous bad reviews raise the obvious question: Is the reviewer actually a customer?



“For a small restaurant with very few reviews,” he said, “that would be one of the easiest ways if you’re a competitor or disgruntled ex-employee to sabotage a business, given the power of TripAdvisor within the industry.”



U.S. law may provide relief when hoteliers have conclusive evidence of an inaccuracy or defamation. When they put a review site on notice of potential defamation with evidence, the site is obligated to investigate. But without conclusive evidence, a review site does not have to remove offending information.



“It wouldn’t be a good idea for TripAdvisor to flat out ignore these [complaints], but at the same time the law really favors the service provider here,” Lerner said. “Congress did that very deliberately because they felt that these organizations should not be held liable for all the stuff that their users do. In many cases, that’s difficult for the people being talked about to accept. Someone is saying something false about you. You can go after that individual or get the site to respond, but getting the site on the hook for defamation is much more difficult.”


Lerner said there is very little chance of the law changing to protect businesses – even as the power of review sites over consumer decisions grows.




Emmins said his company would continue to challenge what it considers to be defamatory reviews.


“There is nothing wrong with customer feedback,” he said. “It just needs to be genuine, honest and fair. It certainly needs to be without interference and manipulation from the publisher. It’s time for TripAdvisor to admit their failings, compensate businesses that have been particularly wronged, and correct it so it can be a truly trusted system.”


Although hotels may find little help under the law, Michael Feldman, an attorney at Proskauer who also teaches at the the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Business, said they have their own resources to draw on.


“Where they get their comfort is their brands supporting and reinforcing their brands,” he said. “You can’t stop people from sniping at you.”



BY : Beth Kormanik

Airfares from U.S. to Europe much higher than vice versa

September 13th, 2010 by Mariah

Americans flying to Europe this fall may pay hundreds of dollars more than their counterparts traveling the opposite way over the Atlantic.


Round-trip fares from several U.S. cities to European hot spots like Paris, London and Amsterdam are up to 66% higher than the price for trips originating overseas, says Tom Parsons, founder of, who scouted fares from the last week of October through March 31.



“Between the same cities, (for the) same seats, same days of week … one country gets an advantage over the other,” says Parsons, who found similar pricing at most of the major carriers including Continental, Delta and United, as well as international airlines such as KLM. “Because we’re Americans, we pay more.”



A round trip from Atlanta to Paris on Nov. 9, returning Nov. 16, costs $902, for instance, compared with $544 for the same trip beginning in France, Parsons says. A trip from San Francisco to Milan would be $829 vs. $633 if it were reversed, and Chicago to London has a fare of $791 as compared with $586 if the journey began in Britain.Higher fuel surcharges for flights to Europe and taxes could be part of the explanation, travel watchers say.



But George Hobica, founder of, says that the disparity in airfares has been visible throughout the year, and most likely simply reflects what the airlines believe passengers are willing to pay on each side of the pond.



“Part of it is simply what the market will bear,” says Hobica, who noticed low Virgin Atlantic fares over the summer that were only available if you were traveling from Britain to the U.S. “If airlines think people are earning more in the U.S. and are willing to pay more, they’ll charge more. … It doesn’t seem fair, but apparently it works for the airlines, if it doesn’t work for us.”



Carriers also are likely capitalizing on a renewed eagerness to fly after the industry struggled through the economic downturn that kept many would-be travelers at home. In June, international premium travel rose 16.6% and travel in economy class rose 9.5% over June 2009, according to the International Air Transport Association.



In the U.S., airlines “saw us pay much more this summer and we filled up the airplanes,” Parsons says. “I think they’re banking on the fact they’re going to … get more money on this side of the pond and subsidize what they can’t get on the other side.” While it may not be the cheapest time for Americans to visit the Louvre in Paris or the canals in Amsterdam, there is an upside to the lower fares being offered to Europeans, Hobica says.




“I think it’s good news for us here in New York because European visitors … come to shop,” he says. “It’s very good for our economy.”



By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

What Hotels Will Do For Good Reviews

September 13th, 2010 by Mariah

Oh, the things hotels will do for a good review. It’s not enough to ask guests for a write-up on a popular site such as TripAdvisor or Yelp after they’ve checked out. Lately, some innkeepers have been pressuring their customers to say positive things online — in extreme cases, even before they’ve checked in.



Take what happened to Pam Stucky when she recently made a reservation at a small hotel in Scotland. Before she arrived, the owner sent her an e-mail soliciting a recommendation on TripAdvisor, even though she’d never been to the hotel.



“Two or four guests staying together can send two to four independent reviews,” the innkeeper wrote. “Different pseudonyms should be used.”



Stucky, a Seattle-based writer, was uncomfortable with the come-on.“He hounded me to give him a positive review,” she said. When she arrived, the owner told her he was trying to get TripAdvisor to remove some of the less flattering write-ups about his property, while persuading guests — and future guests — to say nice things about his business. She says the hotel was “fine,” although her quarters were somewhat cramped.



At a time when properties from the largest chain hotel to a two-room bed-and-breakfast are engaging in a practice known as reputation management, the latest tools of the trade are you, their guests.Marc Karasu, the president of, a reputation management company, says that hotels see the importance of encouraging happy customers to post their experiences online to enhance the hotels’ reputations and draw bookings. “But it’s easy to cross the line,” he added.



Where is the line? It depends on whom you ask. TripAdvisor, the largest and arguably most credible of the online review sites, takes a dim view of resorts that try to spin their own ratings. The site’s policy, which has been in effect since 2006, is clear: “Property owners are welcome to encourage their guests to submit user reviews upon their return home, but they are not allowed to offer incentives, discounts, upgrades, or special treatment on current or future stays in exchange for reviews.” In other words, the reviews have to be legitimate and not motivated by any special offers.



“Whenever a traveler reports that they’ve been offered an incentive, we follow up with the property and, where appropriate, impose penalties,” said April Robb, a TripAdvisor spokeswoman. Those can include dropping a property on the site’s popularity index, excluding it from its Travelers’ Choice awards or posting a warning next to a listing that its reviews are “suspicious.”



Chris Brusznicki, the president of, a sports vacation rental Web site, says that online reviews are so important to his business that he personally calls guests to ask them for a review on Yelp and Facebook. “Reviews are a huge differentiator for properties and help future guests become more comfortable with a rental decision,” he said.But hotels that are on the up-and-up are reluctant to tell guests what to write online. Bill Chamberlain, who runs the Blue Heron Inn in Darien, Georgia, says he takes a hands-off approach to the ratings.



“We have never asked a guest to leave a positive review,” he said. “We simply ask them to post a review on either TripAdvisor or in a thank-you note that is e-mailed to every guest a day or two after departure.” Although the property’s TripAdvisor reviews are mostly positive, one guest complained about lax housekeeping and security.



“There is no shortcut or marketing ploy that can do as much for you as good old-fashioned hard work and being truly passionate about providing genuine hospitality,” said Adele Gutman, the vice president of sales and marketing for HKHotels, which owns several properties in New York that have received high marks online.



And yet for every HKHotels or Blue Heron Inn, there are thousands more that believe the Internet can be manipulated to their ends. They don’t talk about their actions in public, but from time to time someone will post an anonymous comment on my travel blog, complaining about a tactic their competitors have used to boost their online ratings.



Those strategies usually include asking someone connected with the hotel to post a fake review or offering free rooms or discounts to guests who write something nice.



It was only a matter of time before the backlash. In January, Brett Birman, a salesman with a New York finance company, launched a site called He did it “because I have had bad experiences in the past and felt that my negative reviews on other Web sites, like Yelp and Citysearch, are often overlooked,” he told me. So far, is home to only one hotel review — of a small property on West 29th Street, in which a guest complains about the “dark and sketchy” neighborhood.



So what does all this mean to you? Obviously, some hotel executives don’t think twice about leveraging guests like you to improve their online reputations. But if it’s happening to you, it’s probably happening to tens of thousands of other hotel guests every day. How many of them are being asked to endorse a hotel they’ve never stayed in, or have been offered a free night in exchange for a glowing write-up? And how many are doing it?



What does that say about the overall reliability of user-generated hotel reviews? Well, let’s just say that it doesn’t exactly enhance their reputation.



(Tribune Media Services)

What can online marketers learn from the social media experience of the travel industry?

September 10th, 2010 by Mariah

What can online marketers learn from the social media experience of the travel industry?



Truly challenging market conditions have forced the Travel Industry to look for ways to differentiate themselves from their competition and build brand loyalty. A great example of an industry that has learned it can’t stay in the same old place when it comes to staying ahead in marketing.



- Social media has moved well beyond casual friend-to-friend connections into the realm of legitimate usage as an important communications channel for business.



- Adding social media to the media mix is a good strategic move for a time-sensitive, highly competitive business, where it can be used to disseminate late-breaking news and make last-minute offers.



- Using social media for its generational appeal – to reach a younger demographic that’s more socially connected – is smart, but not to the exclusion of other media that may have broader applications to diverse age groups. It’s important to know your audience and utilize the specific media channels that they embrace.



- Figuring out ways to leverage location-based services, if they’re relevant to your business, can create new opportunities to drive customers and their friends to local establishments.


September 10th, 2010 by Mariah


Darby, Montana – August 2010 – A favorite destination of artists and photographers, Triple Creek Ranch has a long history of nurturing the creative arts. Its setting in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, as well as its art-filled Lodge and private log cabins and immersive guest programs, create an environment that inspires and encourages both the aspiring and accomplished artist. This fall, arts-loving guests will have an opportunity to fine-tune their skills alongside some of the West’s most accomplished professionals when the ranch once again hosts its highly regarded Artists’ Workshop Weekends (Oct. 7-10, Oct. 14-17, Oct. 21-24) and David Stoecklein Photography Weekend¸ (Oct. 28-31).


The participatory weekends further demonstrate the Relais & Châteaux property’s appreciation for art, as captured in its extensive private collection of original Western art found both in the Lodge and throughout the recently refreshed private log cabins, which now also feature new fireplaces, fabrics and furnishings. Original works by grand masters such as Charles Russell, Frederick Remington, Joseph Henry Sharp and Eanger Irving Couse and contemporary artists such as Carol Hagan, Brent Cotton and Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey and photographer David Stoecklein create an atmosphere infused with the spirit of the West. Many of the works are from the private collection of the ranch’s owners, devoted collectors Barbara and Craig Barrett.


Scheduled October 7 – 10, October 14 – 17 and October 21 – 24, 2010, the series of four day/three-night Artists’ Workshop Weekends each feature three celebrated artists leading a full program of morning and afternoon hands-on workshops. Additional sessions include Painting; Artists at Work, featuring artists demonstrating and displaying their work; and the World of Art, an introduction to how, when and where to buy art. In addition to the workshops, the all-inclusive weekends include luxurious accommodations in a mountain cabin with wood-burning fireplace and hot tub (in cabin or nearby), gourmet meals and complimentary house wine and spirits, ranch activities, artists’ welcome reception, a guided tour of the Ranch’s art collection and farewell art exhibit. The three-night/four-day weekends are priced from $2,100 to $3,435 per couple, inclusive of all meals, beverages and on-ranch activities.


The nine artists include the aforementioned Hagan and Cotton, as well as Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey (October 7 – 10), Julie Jeppsen, Joe Kronenberg and Graham Flatt (October 14 – 17) and Greg Kelsey, H. Steve Oiestad and Jean Richardson (October 21 – 24). Award-winning photographer Stoecklein, whose work is hailed for its authenticity in capturing the spirit of the American West, will lead the David Stoecklein Photography Weekend scheduled October 28 – 31, 2010. Alongside the world-famous photographer, guests will refine their technique, trade ideas and opinions and gain inspiration from new subject matter and the scenic surroundings of the Bitterroot Valley. Stoecklein has authored or co-authored numerous books, including Cowboy Gear, The Montana Cowboy and Cowgirls in Heaven. An engaging and educational program, the two-day workshop is priced $1,500 per person. Luxurious mountain cabin accommodations start at $650 per couple, per night, and include all meals, beverages and ranch activities.


It’s hard to imagine a more inspiring setting for focusing on and fine-tuning one’s craft. Nestled in the Bitterroot Mountain Range of the Montana Rockies, Triple Creek Ranch is situated on the wooded slopes of Trapper Peak amidst the expansive Bitterroot National Forest. This spring, a resort-wide renovation added new fabrics, appointments and original Western art to all cabins, including works from the owners’ personal collection. Cabins feature wood-burning fireplaces and a private or nearby hot tub, and come with a fully stocked and complimentary wet bar, freshly baked cookies and trail mix. All cabins are equipped with direct-dial phones, satellite television, WiFi, and CD and DVD players.


Whether guests are exploring the ranch on horseback, hiking, birding or fly-fishing, they will enjoy the natural beauty of the setting and abundant wildlife. For relaxation, a massage in the privacy of the guest cabin and a hot tub soak among the Ponderosa pines make inviting options. When curling up with a good book is the preference, a crackling log fire in the cabin is especially cozy.


Well-known for its culinary superiority, the ranch features an expansive dining room and bar, a chef’s table with views of the Bitterroot Mountains, and a climate-controlled wine cellar with an extensive collection of more than 500 wines from the world’s premier winemaking regions. A series of vintner weekends is held each spring, featuring wine dinners and seminars with premier West Coast vintners.


Triple Creek Ranch is a repeat recipient of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and the Wine Enthusiast Award of Distinction.

Triple Creek Ranch
“A Luxury Resort”
5551 West Fork Road
Darby, MT. 59829

Google unveils new search enhancement

September 10th, 2010 by Mariah

Google unveils new search enhancement

Google is promising a new way that helps users find information faster by showing relevant results as a query is typed.

Google has just announced its “streaming search” service, Google Instant. The new offering is coming out of limited Beta testing and is starting to roll-out to users on Google domains in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia.

It will be available on following browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8.

“We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type,” stated the company.

According to the company, the most obvious change is that one gets to the right content much faster than before because one doesn’t have to finish typing full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. “You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way,” added Google.

Google says its testing has shown that Google Instant saves the average searcher two to five seconds per search.

“That may not seem like a lot at first, but it adds up. With Google Instant, we estimate that we’ll save our users 11 hours with each passing second,” said Marissa Mayer, VP Search Products & User Experience, Google.

A few of the core features in Google Instant:

Dynamic Results – Google dynamically displays relevant search results as you type so you can quickly interact and click through to the web content you need.

Predictions – One of the key technologies in Google Instant is that we predict the rest of your query (in light gray text) before you finish typing. See what you need? Stop typing, look down and find what you’re looking for.

Scroll to search – Scroll through predictions and see results instantly for each as you arrow down.

Enjoy A Kidcation at First Farm Inn!

September 9th, 2010 by Mariah

Family Horseback Riding Lessons at First Farm Inn


First Farm Inn offers family horseback rides for riders over the age of 5 and under 225 pounds. Our big Treetops room is ideal for a family of four and a cot can be added to accommodate a fifth child. Horsemanship at First Farm Inn includes learning to think like a horse, groom, saddle, mount and ride. Practice in the riding arena, demonstrate your leadership ability to your horse, then go on to ride up and down the hills and through the woods.


Riding lessons with instructor Jen Warner will increase awareness of how your body works, your balance and posture as well as how horses think and why they do what they do.



A variety of happy, healthy horses give rides at First Farm Inn, just off I-275 at the Petersburg exit. While the Spotted Draft, Appaloosas, Morgan mix, Thoroughbred, and Arab mix have three conventional gaits, a Tennessee Walker and Kentucky Mountain pony demonstrate the running walk and the fox trot. Both English and Western tack is available in a variety of sizes.



Warner has taught for 12 years using the principals of centered riding and safety standards of the Certified Horsemanship Association after riding and training for more than 40 years. She strives to ensure each session is fun for riders while ensuring they are safe and balanced. Lessons integrate classical dressage, Western riding, common sense, and martial arts principles.



Riding is offered year-round. Lessons are rescheduled for weather issues.



For more information, call 859-586-0199.



Visit the website and become a fan of First Farm Inn bed and breakfast on Facebook. Email: