CHOICE study shows fake hotel and travel reviews are common
11 November 2013
FAKE hotel reviews are becoming more common and travellers should not rely on user-generated content says research released today by CHOICE.
"The boom in hotel review sites has given rise to the practice of 'astroturfing' or the writing of fake reviews by companies to promote their own accommodation," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.
In the US, the New York Attorney General recently levied hefty fines on 19 companies that wrote fake online reviews and created fake online profiles for businesses. Both the ACCC and NSW Fair Trading are looking in to similar practices here.
Although the rate of fake reviews has risen, people still trust user-generated content more than editorial content, advertisements, marketing and government tourist websites.
According to CHOICE, TripAdvisor, the world's biggest online review portal will not be implementing any changes to improve verification. CHOICE contacted Expedia Australia but did not get any constructive answers to any questions asked. CHOICE also got in contact with Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotels.com. Only Hotels.com public relations rep Taylor Cole got back to CHOICE saying, "Once the stay is completed, we send the guest a link so they can write a review. No incentive is offered for this information."
In February 2012 TripAdvisor UK was forced to drop claims such as 'reviews you can trust' and 'trusted advice from real travellers' from its website. The Australian version of the site, however, did not have to follow the same procedures.
CHOICE's tips for spotting fake reviews:
• Check reviews about the same business from different sources.
• Keep an eye out for telltale signs of fakery such as a sudden increase in positive or negative reviews over a short time frame that are out of synch with earlier reviews.
• Beware of reviews that are allegedly from different people but are suspiciously similar in tone and style.
• A one-star rating by a reviewer for a five-star hotel should be regarded with suspicion.