Luxury Hotels Are In An Arms Race Posting Fake Reviews To Outcompete Airbnb

Luxury hotels are more likely to post fake reviews than cheaper properties. That appears to be because people deciding on price are less influenced by reviews, while a decision to drop $500 or more per night on a resort will be influenced by more subjective and experiential elements of a stay.

It used to be that hotels would post fake negative reviews of competitors. But they’ve shifted away from that and more towards posting more fake positive reviews of their own properties, as Airbnb has grown, according to new research.

Before Airbnb grew to its current size, 15% – 30% of online reviews were believed to be fake. Usually “Hotel managers created fake customer reviews to boost their ratings and drag down their competitors. This “review manipulation” was highest among independent hotels in competitive markets.”

However, during the 8 years following the launch of Airbnb, “this new form of competition changed how hotels manipulated reviews.”

They found pressure from Airbnb listings led high-end hotels to increase their fake, positive reviews. But badmouthing other hotels with similar price points dropped off. Without the fake, negative reviews from their competing hotels, their overall ratings skewed higher.

…”We have shown the evidence that if there are more Airbnb listings available around high-end hotels, those hotels tend to self-promote more by posting fake positive ratings. Consumers need to be careful because the reviews, especially on Tripadvisor, may be inflated and not be truly representative of the quality,”

The conclusions are based on an analysis of 2188 hotels in 68 markets, and evaluated the effect of Airbnb using data from AirDNA – it was important to determine the quality of local homesharing listings because lower-end private rentals would be less likely to affect expensive resorts. The reviews they looked at were from Tripadvisor (which doesn’t correlate reviews with an actual stay) and Expedia (which does).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I find increasingly that hotels don’t even pay attention to TripAdvisor reviews. A very high number don’t even respond anymore, which would have been unheard of a few years ago. What irks me isn’t that people manipulate TripAdvisor — I more or less ignore reviews by accounts with only one review to their name — but that Marriott and Hyatt don’t allow you to rate and review their properties on their websites unless they send you a survey. I get a survey every stay from IHG compared to a couple times per year at most from Marriott and Hyatt.

  2. I pay little attention to reviews…but when I do , it usually doesn’t take much time to realize there are fake ones and also angry customers making up nonsense to bolster their complaints. I do not see how renting someone’s house is a fair comparison to a luxury hotel. Do these people stick around and serve breakfast buffets with cool to order omelettes? Who handles the pool bar and makes sure the hot tub is cleaned? If you are going to rent you are interested in location and cost savings…a luxury resort is as much about service as location.

  3. Mark, you said it. The thing that distinguishes a luxury hotel from and an expensive hotel is service. So, if we are truly talking about luxury hotels, then there is truly no comparison.

  4. Service is rooted in culture. This is larger than hotels or the hotel industry. Western countries lack service culture, so you cannot expect to be pampered. The only difference between an independent model and a Ritz-Carlton is at the latter the front desk has been trained to smile and not to roll their eyes at you. The motel hires anybody with a pulse who will be visibly bothered by your mere presence at check in time (and don’t you even think about checking in 1 minute too early, as that compounds the berating level you will receive).

  5. I worked at a Hyatt.
    Fake reviews were encouraged .
    Anyone who doesnt think hotels do this are just naive ans/or stupid.

  6. Tripadvisor hotel reviews often now will have several in a row who compliment a specific employee. After the six review in a row saying how a specific towel boy at the pool “made their vacation” it doesn’t take much to spot obvious fakes. I do ignore most whiny over the top either. But I do value opinions when genuine

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