One the major concerns I’ve had over a number of years has been with travel review sites. The issue of consumer review sites has come to the fore again with Scottish entrepreneur and Dragon Duncan Bannatyne accusing TripAdvisor of publishing “dishonest” reviews.
Where to now for travel reviews?
TripAdvisor was reported in the Telegraph and many other national newspapers as stating that they have a team of “quality assurance specialists” to address suspicious reviews.
Credibility and validity of reviews
One of the major concerns I have with consumer review sites is the lack of transparency and controls. With many review sites there’s either no or minimal controls on who can sign up and leave a review. Firstly, there’s no validation that the person leaving the review actually, for example, stayed at the hotel they reviewed. Secondly, it also leaves the door wide open to competitors leaving malicious comments.
These issues are well addressed by many online travel agencies who only accept reviews by people who booked their travel goodies with the agency themselves. That said, there are limitations to how to tackle “incentives” which are offered offline – in the premises themselves. With no incentive, penalty for either the premisses or the “reviewer” to tell – no-one is any the wiser.
Furthermore, consumer review sites tend to be very opaque about what actual steps they take to deal with suspicious reviews. With the volume of reviews large sites receive it’s hard to imagine them not getting swamped without basic “you booked that hotel with us” checks.
Consumers and Business United
It’s clear that bad reviews will hurt a business – but a good business will take the issues raised on board and try to improve on the mistakes that were made. A false or malicious review serves neither business or consumer. The reviewed business, naturally, feels somewhat aggrieved by the malice and the consumer no longer knows if they can trust the reviews – or even the review site itself.
Where to now for travel reviews
Consumer review sites need to be clear in the criteria that people have to fulfil in order to post a review and what measures they take in order to enforce them. Furthermore, they need to make it easier for people to identify other users with similar interests so that us consumers can rely on like-minded people rather than the “wisdom of the masses”.
Travel reviews do not add any value
Personally, I ignore consumer review sites. I don’t find that they add any value. I don’t know if the reviewer even had any experience of what I’m looking into. Instead, I rely almost exclusively on personal recommendations and recommendations on blogs and websites I trust – which are transparent about their values, standards, criteria and points of view.