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New TripAdvisor warning system under fire, mom's post about son's death at Mexico resort removed

Posted at 1:01 AM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 13:56:20-05

TripAdvisor now working on a new warning system to alert travelers about potential dangers at specific hotels. But, one mother says the death of her son at a Cancun resort still doesn’t meet TripAdvisor’s requirements.

Brian Manucci was found floating face down in the pool of the Grand Oasis Cancun on Aug. 10, 2013.  

Karen Smith said immediately following her son’s death she posted about it on TripAdvisor. She says the review from four years ago was removed because it was “hearsay.”

Despite the recent media attention and criticism of reviews being taken down, TripAdvisor wants to clarify that their policy on serious incidents such as rape or sexual assault, was updated years ago. 

Smith thought her son’s death now qualified as a public safety concern.

On Sunday, she posted a review about the Grand Oasis Cancun. Smith said she wanted the facts of what she went through online for travelers to make up their own minds about whether they should stay there. Part of her post stated that her “son is not the first person to drown at the Oasis. Nolan Webster tragically had the same experience. TripAdvisor would not allow posting to help warn other travelers to the potential dangers at the Grand Oasis. “Hearsay” they said. It not “hearsay” that I received a call from the US Consulate informing me my son’s death. It is not “hearsay” that I wired thousands of dollars to the coroner before they would allow my son to be flown back to the states. It is not “hearsay” that no (one) has ever spoken to us about his death despite the fact this this has been reported on several media outlets and written about in several newspapers.”

Smith said she was elated that her post was approved and online. ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska was driving down to interview Smith about the benefits of TripAdvisor’s new guidelines when Smith called and said her post, “vanished.”

“You feel like you worked for four years to achieve something, you get there, and four days later it’s all gone again,” Smith said. 

According to TripAdvisor, Smith’s post still does not meet their requirements.  

“To confirm, the review submitted by user “wheresmyticket” was rejected because it contained second-hand information about a death that occurred during a trip the user was not on,” Tara Lieberman Sr. Public Relations Specialist wrote in an e-mail. “Additionally, the review was about an experience that happened more than a year ago. Both of these instances are against our review guidelines.”

Smith doesn’t know how her son died and said the Grand Oasis did nothing to help the family.  She believes that is valid information travelers should be aware of.

Smith said recent high profile cases of tourists in Cancun drowning in hotel pools after drinking alcohol have brought her son’s death back to the forefront.

According to ABC News, a Wisconsin family plans to file a lawsuit after their 20-year-old daughter died under mysterious circumstances at a five-star resort during a family vacation earlier this year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Abbey Conner, 20, and her brother, Austin Conner, 23, were found floating face down in a pool at the Iberostar Playa Paraiso Resort just two hours into a vacation with their mother, Ginny McGowan, and stepfather, John McGowan.

TripAdvisor said they are working on their review system and have made it their goal to alert travelers if “an issue getting significant media attention elsewhere that is not necessarily apparent in reviews. But, here is a non-exhaustive list of factors that we take into consideration: is the case reported on by credible media?; were the business’s staff or anyone hired by the business directly involved?; is it a current and present issue impacting travelers?; are there any recent reviews on the listing that mention this issue?” Lieberman said.  

“This is a huge conflict of interest because they are also booking the trips so if the resort has positive reviews the better chance that someone is going to book a trip to that resort,” Smith said. “This is a lifelong mission. If I can prevent even one person from going through what I went through I’ll continue to do it.”