Hotel review sites

Think twice and double-check before trusting a user-generated review.
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01.Reliability check


User-review sites are the second-most trusted source of information for consumers around the world - easily beating out editorial content, ads and marketing. Only personal recommendations from friends are considered more reliable. So it's no surprise that 88% of Aussie travellers check user reviews before booking a hotel. 

TripAdvisor is the world’s biggest online travel review service by far, with more than 260 million unique visitors every month to websites based in 30 countries. The free service has published more than 100 million reviews covering in excess of 2.7 million places to stay, eat and visit. But how trustworthy are the reviews? 

Regulatory intervention

In February 2012, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) forced TripAdvisor to drop claims such as “reviews you can trust” and “trusted advice from real travellers” from its website. It turned out to be a good bit of regulation. In May this year, the general manager of communications for Accor hotels in the Asia-Pacific region was caught posting more than 100 positive reviews on TripAdvisor for Accor hotels around the world. (The manager used a fake name in reviews but claimed he’d stayed in the hotels.) Unfortunately for Aussie travellers, the regulatory action only applied to TripAdvisor’s UK website. The Australian and US sites both still claim that TripAdvisor “offers trusted advice from real travellers”. 

Yet that’s hardly any truer here than it was in the UK, since local hotels have been known to post glowing reviews for their properties and slam the competition - a ruse known as astroturfing

TripAdvisor was caught out again in July this year when a UK restaurant that had received rave reviews and increasingly high rankings over a couple of months turned out not to exist. Since the ASA ruling, TripAdvisor has repeatedly defended the reliability of its site. In June this year, its global vice president of sales, Julio Bruno, visited Sydney for a travel industry event, where he argued that fake reviewers eventually get caught.

The local accommodation industry, at least, is not convinced. In August last year, the Accommodation Association of Australia published survey results indicating that half the 381 hoteliers in Australia who took part regard TripAdvisor reviews as inaccurate. And more than half of respondents had been threatened with a bad review or had a malicious review posted about their hotel. “TripAdvisor won’t fact check, so they’re seemingly unconcerned with the facts surrounding a guest’s stay,” says AAA CEO Richard Munro. “We had one property accused of theft during a checkout transaction. The property offered video evidence showing the theft did not occur, but was denied the option of the accusation being removed.” 



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