Tripadvisor bribes: Hotel owners offer free rooms in return for glowing reviews
By COLIN FERNANDEZ
As the world’s most influential hotel review website, TripAdvisor’s impact on the travel industry has long been clear. A good review can make or break a hotel.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that hotels in Britain and abroad are bribing guests to write glowing reviews in exchange for cash or cut-price rooms and meals.
The website, which has 45million reviews of more than 500,000 destinations, is a popular first stop for holidaymakers seeking honest opinions about places to stay.
Already 30 properties around the world have been blacklisted for suspicious reviews – and there is a thriving black market in hotels willing to pay people to write positive reviews.
Paradise? The Cove Hotel offers incentives for positive reviews on TripAdvisorThe Office of Fair Trading says it will launch an investigation if it considers rules have been broken.
The Cove Hotel in Cornwall may face an inquiry over allegations it has breached the website’s reviewing rules.
Set in Lamorna Cove near Penzance, the hotel gives guests a letter from owner Lee Magner suggesting they join a ‘Friends of the Cove’ scheme.
They are offered 10 per cent off food and drink in the hotel’s Fireside Restaurant and a ‘free apartment upgrade’.
In return they become ‘brand champions’ and have to post an ‘honest but positive view’ on the TripAdvisor website.
The incentives are also offered if guests recommend the hotel to two leading restaurant guides – the Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide.
Reviews: The Cove Hotel’s details on the TripAdvisor website
The Cove’s website says ‘the moment your comment goes live on TripAdvisor or either of the Food Guides mentioned, we will activate your card!’
The hotel rents out 16 apartments from £195 to £375 a night during peak season.
All but two of 26 TripAdvisor reviews of the Cove this year have awarded four or five-star ratings.
‘Owners are welcome to encourage their guests to submit user reviews upon their return home. But it is strictly against our guidelines to offer incentives, discounts or upgrades.We take serious steps to penalise businesses caught attempting to manipulate the system.’
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