A Which? Travel investigation has revealed that TripAdvisor is “failing to stop a flood of fake and suspicious” five-star reviews from boosting the ratings of some of its highest-ranked hotels.
The consumer association analysed almost 250,000 reviews for the top 10 ranked hotels in 10 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 “serious concerns”.
Which? Travel reported 15 of the “worst” cases to TripAdvisor and it said that 14 of these had already been caught with fake positive reviews in the last year.
Regarded as the world’s biggest travel website, it revealed six of these hotels had been penalised for breaking guidelines and two had previously been given a “red badge” warning for suspicious activity, but Which? said this was not made clear to travellers and a “highly suspicious” pattern of reviews had continued to appear.
Following the investigation, TripAdvisor has taken down many of the reviews, while Travelodge admitted having previously been hit with the website’s most severe red badge warning for suspicious reviews after two of its hotels in London were flagged in the research.
Which? said some of the most “concerning” findings were in Las Vegas, where two of the 10 highest ranked hotels had received almost half (48% and 41%) of their hundreds of five-star ratings from first-time reviewers who had never made any other TripAdvisor contributions before or since.
Naomi Leach, of Which? Travel, 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.”
A spokesperson for Tripadvisor said: “The findings presented by Which are extremely misleading and ignore too many of the facts. Their claims about fake reviews on TripAdvisor are based on a flawed understanding of fake review patterns which is reliant on too many assumptions, and too little data.
“It seems to us that Which? has an alternative motive in attacking our platform. Looking at their ads and their own website today, we note that they are using this story as an opportunity to promote their own consumer review platform and the “truthfulness” of it. We believe that the sensationalist claims Which have made, based on no hard evidence, should be viewed in that context.”
They added: “We are committed to ensuring reviews on TripAdvisor offer useful and accurate information, and we are very aggressive in catching fake reviews and pursuing the fraudsters behind them. We have a dedicated team of fraud investigators who work tirelessly to protect the site from fake reviews.
“We are confident our approach works. It is why we continue to retain the trust of many millions of consumers worldwide. They know from their own experience of using TripAdvisor that it is a source of information on which they can rely.”