No-one in their right mind would ask the advice of the person sitting next to them in a bus about the merits of a particular hotel.
But five million people every week, in effect do just that consulting TripAdvisor for travel advice. A few days ago, I posted a glowing, totally bogus review on TripAdvisor of a luxury hotel which the Good Hotel Guide is omitting this year following a series of bad reports.
Unlike TripAdvisor, our advice on where to the stay can be trusted because we track all those who write to us. The fake, the malicious, the inspired and the collusive cannot get through our screening system, though hotels often try. Trip Advisor claims that it has ‘zero tolerance’ for fake reports, but all it requires from its reviewers is an email address. There is not even a check as to whether the person has actually stayed at the hotel.
The review I posted was under a false name and came from a non-existent email address. TripAdvisor says that a review is not put up on its website until it has been ‘moderated’ and that algorithms are used to check against fraud. But these defences are useless judging by my own experience and recent articles in The Times and the Sunday Times.
Does it matter that millions of travellers are being gulled? TripAdvisor claims that its website is self-policing and that its viewers read the reviews with ‘the right level of scepticism’. That’s just as well, because the opinion of the man on the bus would probably be more reliable.
Adam Raphael, editor, Good Hotel Guide