By Mike Fuhrmann, The Canadian Press
TORONTO - A clean room is something most hotel guests expect. Mouldy carpets, dirt on the walls and blood-sucking insects in bed, not so much.
Unfortunately, not all hotels live up to expectations. After a less-than-delightful stay at a lodge in northern Ontario, one tourist posted this comment in the popular online forum TripAdvisor: "If you like bugs you will like the place."
Another traveller used the website to warn prospective guests about a motel in Niagara Falls, Ont.: "Blood in the bedding, spatter across the walls, carpet saturated with black filth, empty beer bottles piled outside the door, discarded rotting furniture at the bottom of the stairs, disgusting odour. Run."
TripAdvisor compiles such horror stories to produce its annual list of the "dirtiest hotels" in the United States, Britain, Europe and Asia. Establishments earn their way onto the list by receiving the lowest scores from users on the website's 1 to 5 cleanliness scale.
The just released fifth honour roll includes, for the first time, a bottom-10 Canadian list, singling out properties in St. John's, N.L.; Montreal; Toronto; Edmonton; Drumheller, Alta.; and Niagara Falls, Barrie and Gore Bay in Ontario.
"This is all based on feedback from our community of travellers, and we just want to make people aware of the best hotels around the world and also some of the ones to watch out for," said TripAdvisor spokeswoman Amelie Hurst on the line from San Francisco.
"We feel that travellers have a right to basic levels of hygiene and cleanliness regardless of the price or the location of a hotel."
In addition to posting sometimes hair-raising descriptions of hotel rooms, some travellers offer advice:
"If you DO decide to stay here, please wear long pants, socks and long-sleeved shirts to bed and DO NOT walk on the carpets barefoot for any reason. Hope this helps," a visitor writes after an unrelaxing sojourn at an Edmonton hotel.
"Don't stay here unless you are paying about $29.95 and are bringing your own sheets with you," another guest says of the same place.
The Howard Johnson Toronto East, among the hotels on the Canadian list, gets the brunt of disparaging remarks about its furniture, carpets and amenities. Room rates at the property, which advertises itself as "Toronto's friendliest hotel," start at $69.
General manager Ron Chan does not deny that the hotel has had problems.
"Of course, every hotel has problems. Some of them we did fix. ... We are trying to do our best."
He said he's been busy in recent weeks talking to contractors about major renovations that will start "very soon."
Chan also takes issue with TripAdvisor's "dirtiest" label.
"You know, the wallpaper, the carpet, they're not dirty, they're old."
Also making the list is the St. John's Battery Hotel and Conference Centre, where rates start at about $99 a night. Midway up historic Signal Hill, the hotel promotes its "commanding view" of St. John's harbour.
Frank Delaney, the Battery's director of sales and marketing, says he has many repeat customers and has recently hosted dignitaries including the province's Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie and, a year ago, Premier Danny Williams, for various functions.
"I welcome anyone who has made comments (on TripAdvisor) or who has had a bad experience here at the hotel to contact us on the toll-free number, and I'm more than happy to speak to any of them and I will certainly do my best to make it right," Delaney says. "And if there is something that we can improve upon, we certainly will."
Delaney questions whether any of the hotel's harsh reviews were posted by someone with an agenda.
"I am working with TripAdvisor right now to make sure that these are valid, because in a very short time - in about three, four months -we had a burst of negative comments. If they're legitimate, well, we've got some work to do."
For its part, TripAdvisor says it is "extremely concerned" about the accuracy of reviews on the website.
"It's something we take very seriously," says Hurst, noting that suspicious reviews are investigated. The company, which says it gets more than 25 million visitors a month to the site, also uses automated tools in an attempt to detect fraud.
"So, for instance, if we were noting a significant number of reviews all being posted from one similar looking source, then that will absolutely raise alarm bells."
TripAdvisor also lets hotel owners post replies to negative reviews to give their side of the story.
But Anthony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada, says the company's method of producing a dirtiest hotels list "is not particularly scientific."
"I take it with a grain of salt," Pollard says. "At the end of the day anybody with a keyboard and access to the Internet can write anything. That goes for the good and the bad."
Pollard suggests travellers consult the national rating program Canada Select or the AAA for hotel reviews.
On the web:
http://tinyurl.com/ycdmyxw (AAA ratings)
big big big wories..wow
IMAGINE IN MONTREAL...