A few weeks back we reported on the stink being raised by the discovery that hotels were bribing their guests with discounts and free room stays if they wrote positive reviews about a property.
We noted the corrupt or compromised reviews seemed most prevalent in UK, and quoted TripAdvisor’s UK spokesperson as being rigorously opposed to the practice.
Now we read in the usually reliable industry site, hotel marketing.com that the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is officially investigating the review giant because complaints have ” reached monumental levels.”
The clear implication is that without review safeguards, the reviews are worthless, and worthless reviews spell the end for TripAdvisor or any site whose reason for being are reviews.
If the ASA finds against TripAdvisor it could spell trouble for spin-off Expedia, a huge ad monger.
Argophilia an east European travel site, headlined the story as ” TripAdvisor’s Fake Review Sickness Goes Critical” and concluded that too many of TripAdvisor’s 50 million plus may not be reliable.
In fairness, it can be said that any on line review site can be bought or weighted… and this covers Yelp, books on Amazon, Tweets, product reviews and technology.
Of course credible reviews exist, but how can they be identified?
Google + may have sidestepped the issues by requiring the use of real identities, an approach TripAdvisor may, unwillingly, have to adopt.
As long as social media continues to be such a powerful influence in travel and other fields, there will always be reviews for sale or offers of “hundreds of live visitors to your site for 100 bucks”
In the meantime, the investigations go on.
TripAdvisor is still a valuable resource for travelers, but the cheats and the good guys continue to battle it out.
As always, buyer or reader beware.