A survey conducted by the British Hospitality Association (BHA) has found that 85% of hospitality businesses have been victim to fake online reviews intended to harm and blackmail them.
This figure is up from the 65% recorded in the last survey two years ago.
Some 71% of hospitality businesses said that online review sites were a powerful and useful tool for them but this number had declined from 2015, by 9%, which may be related to the issues hospitality businesses are facing from fake negative and malicious reviews.
Other findings included suggested that online platforms were not perceived as helpful by businesses dealing with fake negative reviews, with more than 60% of respondents saying they were ‘not helpful’ or ‘not very helpful’.
Half of businesses said that the threat of a bad online review had been used to blackmail them into giving a refund to customers.
When asked if review sites were helpful in dealing with these blackmail attempts, more than 60% respondents said that each of the most popular platforms used by customers were not helpful.
More than 65% of respondents to the survey said that transparency was a problem with website rankings based not on reviews but on complicated algorithms.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: “Online reviews sites are hugely important for the reputations of hospitality businesses and allow consumers to make informed decisions.
“However, the relentless and largely unregulated growth of the digital intermediaries means that hospitality businesses in the real world – who often pay large commissions to these sites on bookings – are at the mercy of these firms. More must be done to tackle fake and malicious reviews and provide greater transparency provided in the ratings systems.”