TripAdvisor’s fraud detection operations saw 4.7% of reviews removed before or after posting last year.
The company said that “no-one has a greater incentive” to ensure reliability than it did, with TripAdvisor and fellow meta search sites coming under increasing pressure from Google.
In September Which said that TripAdvisor was failing to stop a fake and suspicious five-star reviews from artificially boosting the ratings of some of its highest-ranked hotels, after analysing almost 250,000 reviews for the top 10 ranked hotels in 10 popular tourist destinations around the world.
Which said that one in seven of these 100 hotels had “blatant hallmarks of fake reviews, while others raised serious concerns”.
Which Travel’s Naomi Leach, said: “TripAdvisor’s failure to stop fake reviews and take strong action against hotels that abuse the system risks misleading millions of travellers and potentially ruining their holidays.
“Sites like TripAdvisor must do more to ensure the information on their platforms is reliable and if they continue to fall short, they should be compelled to make changes so holidaymakers are no longer at risk of being duped by a flood of fake reviews.”
At TripAdvisor, Stephen Kaufer, president & CEO, said: “Too often we have seen third parties share inaccurate figures about the authenticity of review content and the scale of fraud on our platform. These third parties do not have access to the key technical data necessary to determine whether or not a review is fraudulent.
“We know we’re not perfect. But we’re constantly working to stay one step ahead of the people who try to abuse our platform – and we believe that no other review platform does more to protect the integrity of their content than TripAdvisor.”
The platform said that in 2018, 2.7 million of the reviews submitted were further screened by a content moderation team and that 4.7% of all review submissions were rejected or removed by either the advanced analysis technology or manually by the content moderation team. There were a number of reasons why TripAdvisor rejected or removed reviews, ranging from guideline violations (such as the use of profanity) to instances of review fraud. The group said that 3.4% of all submissions were rejected before they were posted to TripAdvisor, compared to 1.3% of all submissions which were removed after being posted.Looking specifically at fake reviews, 2.1% of reviews submitted were determined to be fraudulent, and 73% of those were blocked before they ever got posted.
Earlier this year Kaufer said the platform was not expecting growth in hotels in the second quarter, but remained hopeful of improvement in the second half, adding, “we may actually decelerate a few points. But we are still set up for growth in the second half or improvement of the second half of the year.”The group has continued to change its hotels product, including more personalised hotel listing, based on a consumer’s browsing behaviour and more localised search results. The company added 100,000 new listings in our hotel business, up approximately 10% year-on-year.
Google has continued to tweak its product in the sector, Google Hotel Ads, most-recently launching personalised hotel recommendation. The group said in a blog post: “When you’re booking a hotel, you may need intel on neighbourhoods to stay in and what you’ll expect to pay. … Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Paris. Once you’ve searched for hotels for your destination and dates, click on ‘Where to stay’ at the top of your hotel results. For each neighbourhood, you’ll see a description, the average price and more. You’ll be able to filter your results for hotels in a specific neighbourhood.”
Chris Blaine, VP, EMEA, Sojern, told Hotel Analyst: “In travel, price comparison sites have been around since the early 2000s and over the past 19 years our industry has seen significant consolidation of these types of shopping sites (Trivago, Kayak, etc) as well as traditional OTAs. “What we are seeing, and what I expect will continue, is the emergence of Google Hotel Ads as the dominant player in the Meta space. With over 4.5 billion daily Google searches equating to around 77% of the world’s total search traffic, Google is taking advantage of their massive, native Search traffic to bolster their Meta growth. In fact, there’s a shift happening at the start of the search journey as Google is now showing more of the GHA ad units where they previously showed traditional Paid Search ads. It is essential for a hotelier to keep up with these changes and make Google a significant part of their direct booking strategy. From our recent Sojern State of the Travel Industry research we know that 35% of European travel marketers are planning on increasing their ad spend on metasearch this year. What I suspect is that we will see a large portion of this ad spend shifting towards Google Hotel Ads.”
HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: For some time now, TripAdviser has been punching above its weight in terms of market cap (USD5.3bn at the time of writing) and the commonly-held view is that, at some point, some lucky organisation is going to buy it.
Could this be Google? At USD5.3bn it needs to be someone who really means it and Google’s move away from meta and into direct selling feels inevitable.Will it need a brand alongside its own powerful moniker? Probably not. Will TripAdvisor’s content be a tasty add-on? Very possibly. And what a good job the reviews platform is clearing out the trash.
The question for Google has never been ‘whether’, but ‘when’. Speculation suggests that the other big online name, Amazon, is considering adding hotels to its Prime platform. Best swoop in, Google.