Booking hotels online: Why you can never trust reviews 100%

Hotel reviews play a major role when we book online. And yet experts say we should avoid making decisions based on ratings on booking platforms. — dpa

Hotel reviews online are pushed on various platforms as a reliable way to judge the standards of accommodation, but the problem is that they are often fake.

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

ALSO READ: Study: TripAdvisor ‘failing to stop fake reviews’

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

This example alone shows that we can’t even rely on the reviews of guests who were genuinely at the hotel.

Spotting fake reviews? ‘Forget about it’

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

If a hotel is rated negatively over a long period of time and suddenly gets nothing but five star reviews, alarm bells should be ringing, she says. But it could also be the case that the hotel has new owners and the quality has really changed for the better.

ALSO READ: How to spot a fake review

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

She therefore recommends two things:

1) Scan different platforms and look through reviews to get a broader picture.

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

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

Navigating the jungle of offerings

Of course, a hotel that gets 4.7 out of 5 stars from users or a recommendation rate of 91% is enticing. With such an enormous offering online we are grateful for such orientation assistance. Or as Halm puts it, “consumers work their way towards a decision via ratings.”

ALSO READ: Opinion: Watch out, a lot of those Amazon reviews are fake

But this means, conversely, that good reviews are desirable for hotel operators in order to become more visible to customers and appear higher up in the lists. And some resort to unfair means as a result.

To prevent disappointment when you get to the hotel, it pays to be aware of this fact and always read reviews with a certain amount of scepticism. – dpa

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