Here’s why you can never trust online hotel reviews 100%

Online hotel reviews are disseminated on various platforms as a reliable way to gauge accommodation standards, but the problem is that they are often fake.

Consumer rights lawyer Tatjana Halm says it’s impossible to say exactly how high that proportion is. “It’s partly because there are so many ways to fake them.”

In some cases, agencies are behind it all, writing flattering reviews for hotels. Some hoteliers tell guests when they’re there, “If you give me a good review, I’ll give you a discount.”

This example alone shows that we cannot even trust the reviews of guests who were genuinely at the hotel.

The problem with fake reviews, however, is that it’s hard for users to spot them. “Forget it,” says Halm, who heads the Markets and Law department of the Bavarian Center for Consumer Advice in Germany.

If a hotel is rated negatively for a long time and suddenly only gets five-star reviews, alarm bells should ring, she says. But it could also be that the hotel has new owners and the quality has really changed for the better.

According to Halm, some online review portals go to great lengths to avoid fake reviews. When researching your vacation, it therefore makes sense to pay attention to whether and how a platform checks reviews before they are published, says the consumer rights advocate. “However, you can never be sure that reviews are 100% clean.”

So she recommends two things:

1) Scan different platforms and browse reviews to get the bigger picture.

2) Be clear about the role reviews play in your own hotel decision. Are they the determining factor? Or do specific details about facilities or price end up playing a bigger role?

You should also take this into account in the filter settings of the booking platforms. “Hotels are often ranked first based on recommendations,” says Halm. If price is more important to you, you should modify the filter accordingly.

Browse offers

Of course, a hotel that gets 4.7 out of 5 stars from users or a 91% recommendation rating is attractive. With such an online offer, we are grateful for such orientation help. Or, as Halm puts it, “consumers drive to a decision via reviews.”

But it means, conversely, that good reviews are desirable for hoteliers to be more visible to customers and appear higher in listings. And some resort to unfair means as a result.

To avoid disappointment when you arrive at the hotel, it is best to be aware of this fact and always read reviews with some skepticism. – dpa

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