Just last July we talked about how hotels at home and abroad were offering guests sweeteners, such as free meals and room upgrades, in exchange for positive reviews on online travel consumer resource TripAdvisor.

But according to several recent newspaper reports, it seems that many guests are also adopting similar unscrupulous PR tactics by using threats of negative TripAdvisor reviews to gain substantial discounts and other concessions.

Poor ratings are known to have cost some hotels and restaurants thousands of pounds in lost revenue.

And, so far, more than 80 hotels and B&Bs have come forward with cases where they believed customers were using review blackmail to get anything from free drinks to the withdrawal of charges for damage to rooms.

In some instances, people have been known to try their luck before they have even arrived – by calling the hotel in advance of their stay with the threat of a negative review in a bid to get a discount.

Our advice to hotels and restaurants is to ignore any such threat in order to avoid getting a reputation as soft a PR target amongst the rogue self-serving members of the TripAdvisor community.

Nevertheless, these cases highlight just how commercially important social media sites such as TripAdvisor have become. And if you didn’t acknowledge their PR potential before then perhaps now’s the time that you did.