In many countries business owners hire touts to solicit customers. Touts go to train stations, airports, or open plazas and urge travelers to visit their employers' business.
Wikitravel specifically strives to avoid being an "advertising brochure" for any business, city, or service. Business employees, like everyone, are welcome to add information to Wikitravel, but we're making a travel guide, not a business brochure, so Wikitravel should not be used as a tool for advertising.
Edits might be reverted as touting if any of the following guidelines aren't followed:
- Don't list the same place many times. Yes, a guesthouse may have a restaurant, a bar, an internet cafe and a dance show, but you need to pick one of "See", "Eat", "Drink", "Sleep" and "Contact" to slot it under. That said, exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis if, for example, a hotel has a famous, separately named bar or restaurant that also draws significant numbers of non-resident customers (use the article's talk page to discuss these rare instances). Also note that businesses should be listed in only one article for the town in which the business operates; if an article about the town has not yet been created, create it.
- Don't add more than one URL for a place, neither on one page nor on different pages. There is never a reason to do so, and will mark your contributions as advertising spam in the eyes of other editors.
- Describe, don't urge. Use the indicative mood to describe ("The food at Restaurant X is freshly prepared when ordered."), rather than the imperative mood for commanding ("Come to Restaurant X and sample its delicious fare straight from the oven!").
- Avoid using flowery, vague terms in descriptions, instead describe why it is so great. "This stunningly wonderful hotel is fabulously luxurious!" is meaningless; "More staff than guests, three heated swimming pools, and each room has a jacuzzi, a bearskin rug in front of the fireplace and panoramic windows with views of the Mighty Mountains" tells much more. "Good music, terrific staff and a great atmosphere" could apply to any bar; "Dark, smoky den crowded with local hipsters, with knowledgeable bartenders and live jazz on Fridays" gives some idea of what to expect.
- Avoid superlatives (the best, the biggest, the tastiest, the most fascinating) unless they are objectively true and of specific interest to the traveler.
- Don't write in ALL-CAPS. On the internet writing in all capital letters is considered shouting and is highly discouraged.
- Avoid vague assertions of proximity to nearby attractions. The description section of a listing is for describing that listing, not the rest of the town. If it's attached to the convention center or right on the pier then note that with in the "directions" attribute of the listing tag, but otherwise save descriptions of the area's attractions for the "See" section. Instead, contribute detailed lat-long coordinates of the property (see Wikitravel:Geocoding)—it will be much more helpful for a traveler choosing a place to stay.
- Avoid references to third-party ratings and rankings unless they are truly exceptional. For example, "Lonely Planet approved" should be avoided since there are thousands of businesses that are "Lonely Planet approved", but "rated the #2 hotel in the Middle East by Generic Travel Magazine in 2010" might be worth mentioning. Note that listings that include such references but that provide no mention of why the business is highly rated offer little value to travelers, so do not use this information instead of actually describing the establishment.
- Don't move your listing to the top. In most cases listings should be ordered alphabetically within a section. Moving a listing to the top of the list for any reason other than alphabetization is considered touting.
- Don't include referral codes in URLs. Some businesses use referral codes to track where traffic to their web site is coming from (example: http://example.com/site.html?from=wikitravel). Referral codes don't benefit travelers and will lead to removal of the listing.
Guidelines for business owners
If you own a business or work for a marketing company you should expect that your edits will come under more scrutiny that those contributed by travelers. As noted previously, business employees, like everyone, are welcome to add information to Wikitravel, but anything seen as advertising is likely to be removed. Additionally, because the goals of creating a travel guide often differ from those of hotel chains, tourism boards, and other business entities contributors should be aware that there are no guarantees that even properly-formatted listings will always be kept in Wikitravel guides. To make a contribution that is less likely to be removed:
- Follow all of the guidelines above to avoid having your contribution identified as touting.
- Create a user account and identify yourself as the owner of the business on your user page. Doing so adds some transparency by clearly identifying you as a business owner, and also gives travelers a way to contact you with questions.
- Never remove competitors' listings from articles or edit them negatively. If there is a problem with a listing it can always be edited for accuracy, and if an establishment is truly vile it can be removed after being discussed on the article's talk page. Removing the listings of competing businesses without discussion is strongly frowned upon.
- Never remove negative comments left by others about your establishment. If you think the comments are unfair, say so on the Talk page and let the community reach a conclusion.
- Include exact prices. We know you hate to do this, but travelers will simply ignore listings that have no prices. Vague terms like "reasonable" or "affordable" are worse than useless. If prices vary, provide a price range (example: "$100-$200, varies by season").
- Do not edit war. If your listing is removed look at the article history to see why it was removed, and discuss it on the talk page for that article. Repeatedly re-adding a removed listing without first discussing why it was removed makes it more likely that editors will see your contributions as advertising, and less likely that your listing will be allowed.
- Note: Wikitravel implements
rel="nofollow" so there is no SEO benefit to listing a website here.
Wikitravel gets numerous contributions each day attempting to market hotel chains. As noted earlier, Wikitravel has no interest in marketing - this is a site for travelers, not hotel owners - so accounts that add multiple hotel listings that do not meet the guidelines above should unfortunately expect to see those contributions reverted, and in the worst case repeated violations of this policy may lead to blocking of the contributor's account and possibly blacklisting of the business in question.
In addition to the guidelines above, note that hotel marketers must format listings correctly. Other editors will fix mistakes made by contributors who add only one or two listings, but if you are adding multiple listings then it is up to you to make sure they adhere to the Wikitravel style guidelines. You must include full information, including price ranges, a properly formatted address (do not include city/state/zip) and a useful description of the business, otherwise your contributions will probably be removed.
Good. The following is an example of a good business listing. It is properly formatted, includes a price range, and has a description that provides useful information for a traveler:
- Anaheim Super Lodge, 123 First Street, ☎ +1-888 555-5555 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. This 55 room hotel has amenities including a pool, 24-hour gym, free HBO, free wireless internet, two conference rooms, and a massive lobby fireplace. The on-site Super Restaurant is open from 6AM to 10PM daily and serves Asian-fusion cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere with prices from $10-$30 per entree. An airport shuttle runs every thirty minutes. $100-$200 per night (varies by season).
Bad. This listing is for the same hotel and is one that would be reverted. The address is improperly formatted, there is no price range, and the description is pure marketing fluff:
- Anaheim Super Lodge (Anaheim), 123 First Street, Anaheim, CA 95555. The Anaheim Super Lodge is in Anaheim. Our luxurious hotel is a traveler's dream, located just minutes from the airport, and a half hour from downtown. Well-appointed rooms invite you to a dreamland ideal for your next business or pleasure trip.
- Welcome, business owners - Useful information for business owners who want to work with the Wikitravel community.
- External links - Guidelines on what external links are appropriate and how they should be formatted.
- Tour listings - Guidelines on when it is appropriate to list a tour company on Wikitravel.
- Apartment/Rental listings - Guidelines on when it is appropriate to list a rental agency on Wikitravel.
- Tone - Overview of the tone to use in Wikitravel articles.
- Be fair - How to approach reviews of businesses and destinations.
- The traveller comes first - The golden rule of Wikitravel - the interests of the traveler always come first.
- Avoid negative reviews - It is often better not to list a business than to provide a negative review.
- Words to avoid - Guideline on some words to avoid in listings and articles.