TripAdvisor has been embroiled in a row the authenticity over its reviews, with hoteliers alleging that the market-leader has grown so large it is no longer able to police its content.
There are claims within the industry that some hotels are using the site to attack rivals and boost their own ratings by posting fake reviews.
The site contains over 25m user-generated reviews and 490,000 hotels and attractions worldwide. Many hotels admitting that the majority of their bookings come either directly or indirectly via the site.
But in the current grim economic climate, hotels and restaurants are resorting to dirty tricks to generate business.
According to the Times, Di Beach, who runs the Los Castaños hotel in southern Spain, is one such victim. Until a fortnight ago, her property was ranked number one on TripAdvisor’s Ronda listings, a lucrative position that she claims generated 90% of her business.
But when a rival hotelier allegedly questioned the authenticity of her latest appraisals, TripAdvisor blocked them, posting in their place a critical review that sent her ratings - and her bookings - falling.
“What worries me is that this reviewer claims to have stayed here in May 2008,” she says. “My register says he didn’t. There’s definitely something wrong at TripAdvisor.”
TripAdvisor, which says it catches “the vast majority of fraudulent reviews”, claims every submission is scrutinised by a “team of quality- assurance specialists”, and that hotels caught cheating the system are flagged up with red warning messages.
A former hotelier who asked not to be named told the paper: “The system is laughably easy to manipulate,” “We were ranked in the top 10 for the entire summer before I sold the property, and I wrote every single review. I was even approached by PR firms offering to write my reviews for me. It’s not hard to cover your tracks.”
A spokesperson for TriveAdvisor said: “In the event that a review is suspected to be fraudulent, it is immediately taken down, thereby affecting the business’s ranking in the TripAdvisor Popularity Index.”
“Further measures to penalise those attempting to trick the system are handled on a case-by-case basis, but can include sending a warning letter to the property owners and posting a notice on TripAdvisor to warn travellers that a particular property is being investigated for potentially fraudulent activity,” she added.