The consumer champion analysed almost 250,000 reviews for the top ten ranked hotels in ten popular tourist destinations around the world – and flagged one in seven of these 100 hotels as having blatant hallmarks of fake reviews, while others raised concerns.
Which? Travel reported 15 of the worst cases to TripAdvisor and it admitted that 14 of these had already been caught with fake positive reviews in the past year. TripAdvisor said six of these hotels had been penalised for breaking guidelines.
Two had previously been given a “red badge” warning for suspicious activity, yet this was not made clear to travellers and a highly suspicious pattern of reviews had continued, suggesting a lack of serious ongoing oversight and action to address repeated abuse of the system.
Which? Travel’s Naomi Leach said: “TripAdvisor’s failure to stop fake reviews and take strong action against hotels that abuse the system risks misleading millions of travellers and potentially ruining their holidays.
“Sites like TripAdvisor must do more to ensure the information on their platforms is reliable and if they continue to fall short, they should be compelled to make changes so holidaymakers are no longer at risk of being duped by a flood of fake reviews.”
At two Travelodge hotels, almost half of the hundreds of five-star reviews – 48 per cent and 40 per cent respectively – came from first-time contributors who had never reviewed anywhere else. In contrast, the figure for once-only three-star reviews was much lower.
Following Which? Travel’s investigation, TripAdvisor has taken down hundreds of reviews, while Travelodge admitted having previously been hit with the website’s most severe red badge warning for suspicious reviews.
TripAdvisor said: “The analysis presented by Which is based on a flawed understanding of fake review patterns and is reliant on too many assumptions and too little data. It is far too simplistic to assume all first-time reviewers are suspicious. Every genuine reviewer in the world is at some point a first-time reviewer.” Travelodge reported a “breakdown” in its internal communication when TripAdvisor flagged an irregular pattern of reviews. It said: “The integrity of customer reviews for our hotels is extremely important to us.”