By Chris Reiter
Travel Web sites, such as Priceline.com Inc. and Expedia Inc., are
clamping down on fake online consumer reviews of hotels, which could
undermine a growth area.
Trustworthy sources of information are sometimes difficult to find on
the Internet, and user reviews have become a way for many sites to
offer apparently unbiased opinions -- at a low cost to the Web
But the authenticity of the opinions has not always been reliable.
"We have certainly seen instances with other properties where insiders
have put reviews up for a particular hotel or a particular thing and
it's not a legitimate review," said Jeff Boyd, http://Priceline.com 's
"It's somebody who's in effect been paid to make the property look
good." Boyd said, speaking at the Reuters Hotels and Casinos 2007
Summit in Los Angeles this week, "and sometimes, to make the property
There's a lot at stake. About $69 billion were spent last year at
online travel sites, up 13 percent from a year ago, according to
research firm comScore. Expedia's TripAdvisor, the largest hotel
review site with more than 5 million reviews, says that 97 percent of
reviewers return to the site to plan their next trip.
http://Priceline.com says it addresses the problem of bogus reviews by only
allowing users to post opinions if its records show that the person
has stayed at the hotel.
Every review on TripAdvisor is read by a person trained in fraud
detection. If a fake review does slip through, it is taken down
immediately, and hotels seeking to "game the system" are penalized,
said TripAdvisor spokesman Brooke Ferencsik.
Rob Solomon, CEO of SideStep, a travel search engine start-up, said at
the Reuters Summit that user-generated content -- mainly reviews -- is
one of the company's fastest growing areas. The reviews are key to
increasing traffic for the advertising-funded site.
He estimates that 1 percent to 2 percent of the reviews on SideStep and
other travel sites are bogus. But he says the industry and users are
aware of the problem and addressing it.
"We do a little bit of quality control and then the community starts
policing itself. The cream of the crop starts rising to the top,"
"It will never go away completely, but I think you can minimize it," he
said. "Consumers are pretty smart. They can smell a rat. I don't see
(fake reviews) as an imminent threat."
Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.
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