Tag Archives: trivago

A Suggestion to Reduce Bogus Reviews

The Problem

One of the great unsolved problems with TripAdvisor and other anonymous review sites is that they are open to abuse by fake reviewers – people who have never visited the place they are reviewing.  The motives for this can be attention seeking, cybervandalism, a competitor trying to manipulate rankings, a grudge … Is your competitor up the road looking too good on TripAdvisor? No problem – get a few mates or employees to post damning reviews from home.

The damage done to a restaurant, hotel etc by malicious reviews can be considerable – not only commercially but also mentally and emotionally for the owner of a property attacked in this way.  That’s why the TripAdvisor Owners Forum contains topics like these:

Owners Object to Fake Reviews

Owners Object to Fake Reviews

The Owner Position

For large hotels with hundreds of reviews the odd fake review may not matter in the overall scheme of things, but for smaller concerns with a small number of reviews, one malicious review can make a considerable difference – and it’s also a lot more personal.

The majority of owners do not object to reasonable and fair reviews.  But they rightly object to the fake and malicious ratings which pepper anonymous review sites.

Failure to Validate Reviews

TripAdvisor and other anonymous review sites all have a multitude of disclaimers, denying any responsibility for what they publish and refusing to vouch for “their” reviews.  TripAdvisor says it has checks in place to reduce the risk of fakery, but in reality fake reviews still get through. The current validation systems used by TripAdvisor appear to be little more than an automated system which checks IP addresses and the reviewer’s history on the site via cookies (primarily intended to stop reviews being posted from a hotel’s own internet connection), plus occasionally asking the reviewer by email to click a link in the email to confirm their review is genuine (which probably also involves an IP address check).  There’s nothing there that can’t be easily dodged by a fake reviewer.

Does it have to be like that?  Is it really impossible to introduce any sort of validation procedure which proves that the reviewer has stayed at the hotel in question?

In a Perfect World

In a perfect world, both guest and owner would have to acknowledge the booking in advance, as the successful holiday accommodation portal homelidays.com does for its reviews.  I believe that hotel.com, part of the same group as TripAdvisor, also has these proper checks.  In that case the owner may not like what is published, but there is no doubt that the visit actually happened.

However, I can’t see any way that TA is going to agree to that.  So here’s another suggestion.  It may be utter rubbish – let me know!

A Suggestion to Reduce Bogus Reviews

TripAdvisor (I’m going to say TripAdvisor as it’s the biggest, but it applies equally to Igougo, Trivago etc.) provides a unique property code to each registered owner, and known only to the owner.  In a prominent place on each property page and on the review page it is made clear that for a review to be classed as “Validated” a guest must ask the owner for this code – this could be done at any time, either before or after they place their review, or even before they have arrived.  If a review is posted without this code, it is classed as “Unvalidated”.  The review site could use other terms, of course.

A Validated review would be harder for an owner to refute, though of course they could still post a management response, and so would work for TA by reducing the number of unfounded claims by owners against “fake” reviews.

One drawback I can see would be that if all reviews required the registered owner code then owners could stop all/some reviews being posted; plus listed properties with no claimed owner (and there are plenty of them) could not have reviews posted.

So as a compromise TripAdvisor could continue to allow people to post unvalidated reviews, but have 2 categories of review relating to validated and unvalidated stays, and clearly flagged as such on the property review pages.

Far from ideal, I admit, but some sort of mutual validation would at least be a step in the right direction and might even give TripAdvisor reviews more credibility.

Travel Review Site Surveys: Believe it or not …

It seems that barely a day goes by without the press office of some review site releasing a survey listing the 10 Filthiest Fleapits in Florida, the 20 Best Brothels in Bangkok, or some such nonsense.

Usually these “surveys” are no more than editorial conjecture and office gossip, combined with a few well-chosen statistics from the review site’s own data.  At least it’s obvious that these are just a bit of nonsense, and sensible folk can take it all with a pinch of salt.

However, at times the review sites also release results that appear to reveal serious travel habits or attitudes of the travelling public. The latest from Trivago purports to reveal the “Top 10 Easter Destinations” for the UK population.

According to the results of this study by Trivago, British citizens have predominantly chosen to spend their Easter holidays abroad. Distance is clearly not an obstacle, for the study has revealed two long haul entries in the Top 10 list: Dubai and Bangkok. According to this survey, British travellers have chosen Dubai and Bangkok as their second and fourth favourite travel destinations for this Easter. Hmm. Interesting. Other surprises include Hong Kong (11th place), Sharm el Sheikh (13th), New York (14th) and Koh Samui (18th).

Bad news for British Tourism: UK destinations barely feature on the list of favourites.  In fact, among the UK travellers’ top 50 Easter destinations, only eight British towns appeared: London (1st place), Edinburgh (10th place), Manchester (12th place), Glasgow (22nd place), Brighton (24th place), York (30th place), Birmingham (32nd) and Fort William (48th).

Crikey. This is a turn up. So Fort William will be the 8th most popular destination in Britain this Easter, and more people are going to places like Hong Kong, Dubai, Bangkok and Stockholm than to Manchester, Glasgow or Brighton.  Lovely as Fort William is, I find this a bit odd. What about the usual top seaside towns of Scarborough, Skegness, Bournemouth and Blackpool, normally all in the top 10?  (Source: UKTS 2007)   The fact that it’s Easter can’t account for Fort William suddenly leapfrogging these, can it?

The answer to this mystery is at the bottom of the Trivago press release:

The ranking of the top British Easter destinations is based on the search requests for hotel prices made on http://www.trivago.co.uk in March 2010 for the Easter holidays.

So there we have it – this “survey” is not a revelation of an amazing new travel trend at all, but a quirk of the strange hotel search patterns by UK Trivago users in March.

These aren’t real surveys.  The only point of these review site “surveys” is to grab a few page inches of free publicity.

What a shame that the travel sites who play along don’t print a warning “Believe this drivel at your own risk”.