Tripadvisor warns users about Thai hotel after American jailed over critical review

The resort is rated 4.5 stars out of five. It’s located on a beautiful island off the coast of Thailand. Oh, and you might get arrested for posting a negative review.

Tripadvisor took the unusual step of posting a warning on its website about a Thai hotel, Sea View Resort & Spa Koh Chang, after it said an American guest there faced criminal charges and spent time in jail over his one-star review he posted on the travel-booking website.

“The hotel may have been exercising its legal rights under local law, however, it is our role to inform you so you may take this into consideration when researching your travel plans,” the website’s warning states.

The resort had accused the Tripadvisor user of posting slanderous reviews. 

The resort had accused the Tripadvisor user of posting slanderous reviews. 
(Sea View Koh Chang)

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A Tripadvisor spokesperson told Fox News that this was the first case of a traveler going to jail for sharing their opinion that the company was aware of.

“Tripadvisor believes in the right of every traveler to write about their first-hand traveling experiences – good or bad,” the spokesperson said in an email. “Travelers love to share good news about their travel and dining experiences on our platform.

“Most negative reviews posted are valuable customer service and learning experiences for businesses who choose to constructively engage this feedback,” they continued. “However, Tripadvisor strongly opposes any action where a business, like the Sea View Hotel & Spa in Koh Chang, uses local law to send someone to jail for expressing their opinion. This extraordinary action is why we have taken steps to issue an alert to other travelers, in the form of a notification on the hotel’s listing page on Tripadvisor.”

The AFP previously identified the traveler as Wesley Barnes, an American who was working in Thailand. Immigration police arrested Barnes in September and briefly brought him back to the island, Koh Chang, after the resort’s owner filed a complaint about a review Barnes had posted in July.

“Unfriendly staff, no one ever smiles,” Barnes wrote in the review, which is still posted on Tripadvisor. “They act like they don’t want anyone there. The restaurant manager was the worst. He is from the Czech Republic. He is extremely rude and impolite to guests.”

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The resort’s response is also still posted on the website under the review. It alleged that Barnes and his group had brought their own liquor into the resort’s restaurant against its rules and then “used abusive language” and caused “disruption” while refusing to pay the $16 corkage fee.

“We think it is very unfair for that you have chosen to try to give a very negative image of our wonderful resort and our very friendly staff so we would like to shed some light on what made you go this far,” the resort wrote in response.

The resort previously told Fox News that it was suing Barnes because he left “multiple and slanderous reviews on TripAdvisor and Google.”

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Thailand has harsh anti-defamation laws that have been criticized by human rights groups, Fox News previously reported. He faced a sentence as severe as two years in prison and a fine of about $6,315.

Earlier this month, the resort agreed to drop charges against Barnes in exchange for a public apology, Reuters reported.

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