Online Travel Review Deception: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
SummaryOnline travel reviews are moving closer and closer to supplanting the old five-star rating structure – at least in the eyes of the customer. They are now a critical element in consumers' research and evaluation of products, and travel products are no exception: 61% of online travel shoppers consider user-generated reviews influential.
Despite the importance of online reviews, calculating their monetary value is a tricky prospect, and correlation is not causation. Simply showing that hotels with higher review ratings have greater revenue per available room (RevPAR) – or do better in any other measure than hotels with lower ratings – does not necessarily indicate the value of reviews. Considering reviews as a reflection of quality – not an independent measure of it – is more useful. Because higher-quality hotels perform better than lower-quality hotels, higher-quality hotels receive higher online review ratings. Higher-quality hotels, of course, achieve superior RevPAR and financial results – but online reviews reflect, not influence, these outcomes.
Growing attention to the problem of false hotel reviews has spawned much academic and applied research, as well as at least one startup. HotelMe, a unique reviews and travel advice platform, allows hotel operators to join its authentication service, which verifies that reviews are written by guests who actually stayed at the property (regardless of their booking channel). While false reviews are difficult to detect, companies that can identify them will have a valuable asset in the market.