In the unfolding drama of TripAdvisor vs. Fake Reviews that has played out in various travel publications, HolidayCheck has upped the stakes by trumpeting its differences with TripAdvisor relative to the integrity of hotel reviews.
In fact, the Swiss-based online travel portal, Europe’s largest, wasted no time in setting out its marketing strategy. Its press release opens with: “ ‘No more reviews you can trust’ at TripAdvisor. Customers are angry, the ASA is investigating claims, and hotels are losing business. HolidayCheck is working to build up that trust again.”
HolidayCheck claims to have 20 million visitors a month, and since it’s available in 10 languages, it’s the self-proclaimed market leader in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Poland.
Like TripAdvisor, it offers a steady collection of hotel reviews, images and tips for vacations.
But as Ayesha Keller, HolidayCheck.com’s spokesperson, emphasized, “each traveler should have the opportunity to gather up-to-date, and authentic (our emphasis) information about hotels before booking.”
So where do HolidayCheck and TripAdvisor part company relative to authenticating reviews?
Why is this important?
Automated systems can alert to fakes, but can’t determine if a review is actually a fake. Keller says their “fraud detection” department cuts down on fake reviews significantly.
• And it seems that when a hotel complains about fake reviews, TripAdvisor sends an automated email and the review is rarely if ever removed. I know this for a fact in at least one case.
• HolidayCheck gives hoteliers real people to talk to about suspect reviews. Those complaints are then passed on to the “Fraud Detection” team. The review is checked again, and if it’s found to be fraudulent, it’s taken down, and only reposted after it’s proven genuine.
HolidayCheck has some 16 criteria it uses to measure a review’s authenticity. These include, according to Hotelmarketing.com, tourist language, bad language and the IP address used.
If a review is suspected of being a fake then a confirmation of booking is requested. Genuine reviews which were written using the hotel’s IP address are not, therefore, flagged unfairly.
The issue of a hotel’s being blackmailed by guests seeking special treatment or else, is taken very seriously by HolidayCheck. Belatedly, it seems, by TripAdvisor.
If, as Hotelmarkteting points out, a hotel tells HolidayCheck’s Hotel Communication team that they have been or may be blackmailed, those reviews undergo extra scrutiny before being released.
How important are reviews to the success of a travel enterprise, especially hotels?
A 2010 PhoCusWright report on what influences travel decisions relative to hotels, places online travel reviews ahead of photos, expert reviews, video and even known social network contacts,
The site’s reviews are chatty and informal, like this one:
“Had a great week at this Hotel, thanks to beautiful weather, lovely pool area and friendly staff. The entertainment staff were very friendly and chatty, speaking good English and encouraging everyone to make the most of their holiday. A special thanks to Katie and Memo, who arranged two nights out for us and other hotel guests, one of these nights arranged around a friend’s birthday.”
Some reviews, though, are written by people for whom English is not a first language, and they are sometimes a bit stilted. But their valuations and opinions are quite clear.
HolidayCheck’s Managing Director International, Friedrich von Scanzoni says, “We take fakes very seriously, and take all measures possible to provide our users with authentic, trustworthy reviews.”
But, the real message to hotels from Holidaycheck is simply, that the best way to improve ratings is to improve services and communicate effectively with your customers.
Not a novel idea.