Should travel review sites be censoring their user-generated reviews to avoid the risk of getting sued? It might help their bank balance, but it wouldn’t help holidaymakers relying on them for honest opinions.
A number of hotel companies are up in arms that reviews of their properties have been posted on Tripadvisor that they believe are false. A row has broken out with a number of hotels reportedly threatening to sue Tripadvisor for defamation.
The travel industry has a love-hate relationship with review websites. A few years ago some of the big tour operators had their own review sites. One that I know of used to take down the negative reviews and keep only those that were positive or – at worst – neutral. There was a fear that anything negative about a hotel or resort would result in reduced sales.
Real reviews from real people
Travel is a product we can’t try before we buy. We rely on as much information as possible to reassure us that we’re making the right choices. We hope that the hotel will be as clean as in the pictures, that the food will be to our tastes and that it really does have a pool that would fit more than three people in it.
Holidaymakers have learned the hard way that we can’t always rely on the beautiful photographs in brochures and the travel agent’s patter. Review sites are an opportunity to understand a view from real people; people like us.
People find online reviews reliable
In 2009, 25% of holidaymakers used online reviews to help determine their holiday plans –more than those who used newspaper travel articles or TV advertising.
Online reviews were also thought to be quite reliable. Visit Britain research showed that on a scale of one to seven (where one is not at all reliable and seven is very reliable) online reviews score about 4.5. That score is on a par with the reliability of travel agents and tour operators.
Our trust in these sites will depend on how likely it is that we can believe in the honesty of these reviews. We want to know the good and the bad and hope that the people posting comments honestly reflect their actual experiences.
Reviews are a powerful tool for travel and one that we want to be able to depend on when planning our future holidays.