Bogus Reviews on Travel Sites

The subject of PR people and hotel employees writing trumped-up reviews of hotels has been covered in plenty of articles over the past year, but here’s an update from a Hotels and Casinos summit this week: Travel Sites Clamp Down on Bogus Reviews.

Reading between the lines in this story, it’s obvious that this “user-generated content” is big business. First of all, they don’t have to pay any writers, which is a dream for them. (IgoUgo.com at least gives people credits they can redeem for gift certificates.) The other thing is, these are all booking sites, so they get revenue from people reading a review and then clicking to book a hotel. TripAdvisor is even owned by the same company as Expedia and Hotels.com. Now isn’t that convenient?! (Oh sorry, in the business world they call that “synergy.”)

The key is, reviews from magazine travel writers and guidebook writers could be shaded by a variety of factors, but at least you know who it is. On sites with lots of user reviews, it’s hard to tell if the review was written by a picky fashionista who has been all over the world, Aunt Betty who is leaving Cleveland for the first time in her life, or an assistant front desk clerk looking to get brownie points and some job security. My advice is to always disregard both the gushing superlatives reviews and the “worst place ever” reviews and read the rest to pick up general trends. If one grumpy guy says the food sucked, one said it was their best meal ever, and the rest said it was “adequate,” go with the wisdom of the crowd and expect meals there to be average and edible.

Comments
  1. latin american

    I use these sites just to make sure a place isn’t a total dump, but after a while you notice that most of the reviews are very anecdotal and short on helpful details (like “rooms on the north side face another building”). The reviews written by professional travel writers tend to point out the little things done right or wrong and discuss the hotel in relation to how it competes with others, both locally and on the world stage. Half the TripAdvisor reviews seems to have a sentence to the effect of “I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels and this was the best/worst ever.” Well, what are you comparing it to? Others in that country? That city? That star level? Sine the person is very unlikely to have stayed in a range of places in the same city, it’s hard to tell if their opinion has any weight to it.

  2. Garri

    First off, congrats on your Travvie nomination Tim – good luck!

    We used to have a rating system on our blog and it started off with comments but we ditched it ‘cos it was pointless and of course attracted bogus reviews. No-one seems to have any imagination when they write these reviews – I want to see some curveballs, such as…

    Why not write a gushing review but only give it 2 out of 5. Write a disclaimer saying you’re only giving it 2 out of 5 because it wasn’t that great. Or, you’d have given it 3 out of 5 except you got food poising, apart from that it was great ;-)

    You’d have my attention!

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