Two glasses of prosecco cocktail with orange berry at the edge of a resort pool. Concept of luxury vacation. Outdoor pool background. Horizontal, wide screen format

TripAdvisor has cemented itself as an important checkpoint in the travel booking process, with an incredible number of travellers peering through reviews before pulling out their credit card. But what if it was all bogus, and the lavish praise heaped on luxury hotels all over the world was nothing more than computer generated fake news? Which? Travel, a leading consumer report organisation based in the UK, crunched an incredible amount of data, and if you trust TripAdvisor as a source, you may want to think again…

There are over 250,000 five star reviews for the top 10 hotels in 10 of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, and Which? Travel sifted through each review with a fine toothed comb. The result: half of those reviews are suspicious, at best. Even worse, many hotels previously caught faking reviews to garner a top spot appear to be at it again, without consequence.

Naturally, our first question was “define suspicious”, and the answer is compelling. Suspicious reviews were defined by repetitive language, lack of detail, but most importantly – being the only review ever left by the “user”. In other words, in all their supposed travels, an alarming number of reviews had been left by someone who had never left a review before, and did not choose to ever again.

It’s not at all uncommon for hotels to encourage guests to leave five star reviews, sometimes even offering freebies and incentives for doing so, but with this behaviour happening everywhere, it would seem unlikely that a person wouldn’t ever leave a subsequent review at some point. New registration, single review accounts are absolutely suspicious.

According to the Telegraph, in some cities, nearly 80% of five star reviews for a leading hotel were left by first time, and one time reviewers. Fascinatingly, since Which? published their findings, TripAdvisor actually took notice and removed 730 of the hotels five star reviews. Naturally, the hotel in question claims to know nothing…

This isn’t the first time that TripAdvisor review rankings have been massively detached from the real life story in a given city. In London, a journalist was able to garner the top spot as London’s no.1 rated restaurant, beating chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and others in the process, with just one issue – it never actually existed. The clever trickster simply made a listing for his garden shed, got a few friends to leave glowing reviews and watched it soar. He even managed to record the voicemails of critics begging to get a table, after all the TripAdvisor review buzz.

The problem is quite simple: at present there’s no safeguarding or third party validation required to write a review. This has created a booming business for enterprising online agencies to offer hotels and other travel businesses fake reviews to bolster their position and drive foot traffic. While there’s some merit to a quick glance at TripAdvisor rankings, there’s certainly more reliable sources

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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9 Comments

  1. I’ve found fake reviews on Booking.com as well. In researching places to stay in Siem Reap, I came across the same detailed review from a different “guest” with a different nationality for another property. I emailed booking.com about it, but got no response (probably because they are facilitating it).

  2. ….and don’t forget restaurants. How many restaurants have you seen in top locations which are rated #1 and #2, etc., each having dozens of reviews from one time/one review users. I don’t trust any reviews from people who haven’t left at least 50 reviews and who have a clickable profile on Tripadvisor. Even then, I read their reviews very carefully.

  3. My faith in reviews has significantly eroded over time. Between people who just don’t know what they’re talking about and fake reviews, I feel like I’ve often had as excellent an experience walking into a random taco shop in Southern California than using Yelp or TripAdvisor to find the so-called top rated ones, for example.

  4. I don’t trust any review site. OpenTable, the restaurant reservation site, is among the worst.

    People trust OpenTable because only diners who’ve shown up at the restaurant for their reservation can post a review, but restaurants simply make their own bogus reservations, report them to OpenTable as diners who showed up and write glowing reviews of their own restaurants.

    Word of mouth and professional reviewers are the only opinions I trust anymore.

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