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.