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Travel websites cracking down on bogus customer reviews
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Travel websites are clamping down on fake online ‘user’ reviews which could be damaging their business.According to a debate at the Reuters Hotels and Casinos 2007 Summit in Los Angeles this week, illegitimate reviews are sometimes posted on to sites by hotels wanting to make their property look good. says it is coping with the problem by only allowing users to post their views only if its records show the person has stayed at the hotel.

Meanwhile, TripAdvisor employs a team trained in fraud detection to monitor fake reviews and has software which continually tracks the reviews for anomalies.

It said hotels which try to go against the system are penalised.

“A handful of hotels try to manipulate the site and most don’t do it very cleverly,” said a TripAdvisor UK spokesman.

“It tends to be the smaller establishments that are a little bit naive. It’s not worth it for any hotel because if we catch them at it we will penalise them.

“It’s done on a case by case basis depending on how naughty they’ve been. One hotel in Wales was asking its customers that if they’d had a good time, could they contact TripAdvisor, which is fine, but they were also giving customers photos to put up on the site, which is a bit naughty.

“Other hotels blatanty try and post positive reviews and we will have no hesitation by naming and shaming and dropping their popularity rating. It can ruin their reputation. But it is very much the exception.”

By Bev Fearis

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Categories:  Breaking News, Travel Agent News, Hotel News, Tour Operator News, Travel Technology News

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Glynis Wieczorek, 18 February 2007, 12:17:44 GMT
Reply to Holiday from hell type progs.
We have discussion forums at where we have an advice/complaints forum specifically for complaints. Travel law solicitor Ros Fernihough often assists our members.We are asked by TV holiday programmes for assistance and we do so as the prime objective of both our sites is to try and ensure that holidaymakers have a safe and happy holiday.

We have saved countless people from going to a hotel that wasn’t finished being built and also to hotels that were found to have an infection outbreak at the time.

If anyone posts a really negative review, we tend to remove it and email the reviewer asking them to post in our complaints forum for assistance.

We also state that readers should use review sites as a guide only as everyone has their own idea of a perfect holiday.

Gary Hewitt, 17 February 2007, 11:56:57 GMT
To Hazel
Well I’m glad we agree on something then Hazel, the short descriptions being the best I mean.Now while I have no doubt that you have visited plenty of hotels in your time, you still sell your wares by telling your customers your opinion of the hotel they are looking to book.

So what’s the difference then, between your opinion of a hotel and mine?

Because you disagree with what I think of it, doesn’t mean you’re right.

If you’d stayed in 20,000 hotels in the last couple of years, as our users have, I’d have to bow to your greater judgement, but until then, I’ll continue to use http://www.RealHolidayReports.Com.

Arnold Stewart, 17 February 2007, 09:51:52 GMT
Negative sites
I agree Chris that your site currently seems more positive. My particular problem is with TripAdvisor.It has a much higher profile (at least as I perceive it) compared to yours and whilst it doesn’t openly go after negative comments, it seems to attract them and, for the most part, only very negative ones at at that. Look up just about anywhere that they list and you’ll find that almost all of the comments fall into the “very negative” category with relatively few good comments.

Even in places that are clearly excellent still end up with massive numbers of negative comments. Anywhere that doesn’t fall into the “absolutely excellent” category (ie isn’t a five star place) usually ends up with only very negative comments.

I gather that you guys are more careful in checking up on the comments coming in thereby presumably weeding out the “griping for the sake of griping” type of comment, but TA don’t do that and appear to take anything that comes along. I’ve even seen comments on TA which blame the hotel on a cancelled wedding when it was cancelled because the groom pulled out!

Sites such as your own offer a commendable alternative but the problem is that, at the moment, your profile is relatively low.

Hazel Dinnen, 17 February 2007, 08:57:50 GMT
in reply to Gary Hewitt
No Gary I do not think using a brochure which is out of date would be the answer, it should of course be just another tool of the trade. I have worked in hotels and as a travel agent for the past 8 years and do know the difference between a good post or just another gripe on the Holiday Web Reports. Of course everyone’s expectations are different and I always take that into consideration when reading these feedbacks. However I mentioned before about having stayed in hotels which have had “bad reviews” and not found this to be true. I find 1st hand experience to be the best selling tool but have been beaten by poor reviews on the Web which are either untrue or as I said simply nit picking. The most honest reviews tend to be the short ones, brief descriptions, likes dislikes etc…….

Chris Brown, 17 February 2007, 00:07:49 GMT
To Arnold Stewart
I have to disagee with your comment regarding review sites only being ussed for negative comments. Over 80% of the reviews submitted to rated their holidays 6 out of 10 or higher.In their defence the sites that ask and look for ‘holiday disasters’ & ‘Holidays from Hell’ are the ones helping to push television programmes such as ‘Holidays from Hell’ rather than the site in question looking for poor holiday experiences.

Gary Hewitt, 16 February 2007, 15:14:57 GMT
Only Honest Reviews
I’ve been validating reports on Real Holiday Reports.Com for about 6 years and can usually tell a bogus one by just looking at it.
By the same principle, I look at other sites like ours and wonder how they have huge written sections from the reviewer, while we get quite a few with just a couple of lines.!In reply to a comment by Arnold Stewart, what you don’t see on our site, are the personal details of the reviewer which we store separately to contact and verify their review, if there’s a complaint by the hotel manager or owner. The decision to remove the review is then taken.

Hazel Dinnen says of ‘untrue’ reviews she’s read, as she’s stayed at those Hotels and they were fine. But Hazel, what you expect from a particular accommodation can be totally different to what I might expect. You should use a review site as one of the many tools available on the net, to thoroughly investigate the Hotel your about to book, you can then make a more informed decision to stay there or not.

Or would you have us go back to the days of just a printed brochure made 6 months before.?

Arnold Stewart, 16 February 2007, 19:15:27 GMT
Why stay anywhere?
The approach from Glynis and Jonathan is commendable. However, I think that the main problem with “review” sites is that there is a tendency for them to be used almost exclusively for negative comments.Tripadvisor in particular seems to only attract the negative. We’ve looked up what we’d consider excellent hotels only to find that 90% of the reviews are negative and, on the whole, very negative.

Whilst I do appreciate that most of these sites couldn’t realistically go out and inspect the hotels concerned, I think that more needs to be done to encourage the positive comments.

We look at a few hotel reviews now and again and I honestly don’t know why anyone would stay in any hotel mentioned on Tripadvisor (mainly read as a comic by us!). That’s not to say that their hotels are dreadful but that they tend to encourage (or at least attract) negative comments to such an extent that any hotel listed by them for any amount of time is sure to end up with 90%+ very negative comments.

Also worrying is the emergence of sites specifically looking for “holiday disasters”.

Jonathan Ashworth, 16 February 2007, 12:39:37 GMT
Use your best judgement!
This is a problem we take seriously at We too use good people and software to catch unscrupulous reviewers. You can usually tell if a well known, really bad hotel suddenly has a shining review, it’s obvious that’s it’s fake. We decided to implement video reviews on the site to combat this. This almost removes the need for written reviews as people can actualy see what the hotel is like for themselves, on video. As this initiative grows, it will offer more and more for the consumer. The trouble with written reviews is that one person’s idea of a shabby hotel is another’s idea of a palace so you have to read between the lines sometimes.

Arnold Stewart, 16 February 2007, 13:09:32 GMT
Bogus guests
The other side of bogus reviewing also needs to be addressed too ie that from “guests”. We have received three separate reviews from guests who didn’t even turn up and all three negative because we charge the no-show fee which they agree to when they book.Two sites did remove the review from the non-guests but Tripadvisor didn’t so we’re sitting with a very negative review from someone who never even stayed with us.

Now I’ll grant that TA can’t just take our word that the people didn’t turn up as obviously that could let people say that X wasn’t a guest whenever X gave a negative review, but there must be some onus on them to get some confirmation that the guests actually did stay. At the moment, we could very easily put negative comments against all our competitors with no comeback at all.

Glynis Wieczorek, 16 February 2007, 12:27:07 GMT
We at, one of the longest running hotel review websites, do not allow posts from the country where the accommodation is situated.We check the isp of the posters. We remove the review ratings, edit the post to add an admin message to show that a potentially false report has been made, as shown:-

(This is obviously more difficult if the accommodation is British based)

Jon Moody, 16 February 2007, 12:26:40 GMT
Fake and be damned
What may seem like a good idea at the monthly marketing meeting often ends in calamity. At Asomo, we’ve been monitoring and extracting intelligence from online consumer dailogue for hotel chains, airlines and tourism authorities(other non-travel companies) for 3 years and our Information Brokers can usually spot the fakes. With the possible exception of 4 and 5 star hotel reviews, a fair balance of positive and negative comments for a particular hotel usually indicates genuine customer sentiment and I think most travellers can spot that. Whether the hotel groups and other companies are prepared to leverage this customer feedback is another question altogether…

Hazel Dinnen, 16 February 2007, 11:41:13 GMT
First hand experience
I have seen this happen first hand where management have asked guests to post reviews on Trip Advisor to counteract previous unfavourable reviews even offering free meals or drinks as reward. It is shameful practice, and creates an untrue account of an hotel. On the other side of the coin I have read reviews which are simply untrue. Having stayed in the hotels some people nit pick and put others off by giving false impressions of the property.
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