In-depth review of travel reviews – gaming the system, popularity and more

What is the travelling public’s perception of travel reviews? Are they valuable or gamed to death? Or still a vital cog in the machinery of a purchase?

The Worms University of Applied Sciences has pulled together research on reliance on review sites, how credible they are considered and what consumers like to see.

The study from the institution’s Department of Tourism reveals more than half of hotel customers always consult review site before booking.

Of the 1,021 internet users surveyed, about 17% say review sites are essential to booking, 31% say important and 48% say important but recognise the need to handle with care.

The study, carried out in conjunction with ITB Berlin,  also reveals how consumers rate review sites as an information source with 46% saying they are the most important source for choosing hotels/accommodation while, 28% say the website is most important and almost 20% say friends and acquaintances.

When it comes to credibility the findings are interesting and the study reveals some figures around the cost of gaming the various systems when it comes to purchasing likes, fans, followers and fake reviews.


Despite this, some 86% say they find reviews credible or very credible.

Further findings from consumers include:

  • 70% of users of review sites look at up to 20 reviews and more than 16% between 21 and 30.
  • 85% of consumers consider reviews as credible if there is comparable content, 51% like to see authentic wording, almost 46% say pictures and videos and 39% like them to be very current.
  • When it comes to doubting a review’s authenticity, participants say 65% say if it differs greatly to others, 47% say if it’s too ‘gushing’ and 42% if its worded like a brochure.
  • For more than 70% of respondents, the hotels correspond to the reviews read in advance and for more than 20%, the hotels were better than the reviews said.
  • When reads a review they have doubts about, 35% don’t book, almost 50% do nothing and almost 19% discuss with friends and acquaintances. Almost 14% avoided the customer review site.

The study also asked reviews sites to assess themselves in terms of manipulation with TripAdvisor not specifying, Expedia saying 0.3%, HRS less than 1%, HolidayCheck less than 1% and Zoover, less than 1%.

This is interesting in light of responses from the sites’ users as well as hoteliers with 41% of consumers and 37% of hoteliers saying there were definitely fake reviews on the sites and 31% of consumers and 27% of hoteliers saying there are probably fake reviews on the sites.

When it comes to the estimated share of fake reviews on sites, 29% of respondents believe it’s high, 58% say not so high and 13% say it’s low.

fake reviews

The research also included interviews with hotels across Europe with highlights including:

  • 60% encourage reviews via personal contact at reception, 36% via phone, email or a letter and 24% via fliers and posters.
  • Hotels in Germany spent five hours reviewing their own reviews per month and three hours reviewing competitors, Italy was 10 hours per month on its own reviews and five hours on competitors and Spain was 12 hours on its own reviews and eight on competitors.
  • Only 22% use software to help them manage reviews.
  • About  half say they have experienced fake reviews.

The following slide shows the impact of reviews on hotels in terms of new guests, the hotel’s image and bookings.


NB: The study was carried out between December 1 2013 and January 31 2014. The 1021 participants consisted of two thirds women and one third men with 37% aged between 25 and 34. More than 1,500 hotels also responded across Europe including Germany, Italy, Turkey and Spain.

NB2: Online review image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda worked at tnooz from September 2011 to June 2018 in roles including senior reporter, deputy editor and managing editor.



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  1. Daniel Bridges

    Eliminating manipulation is simple, but many sites can’t (or don’t want to) do it. Ours is a small OTA down in New Zealand ( but we’ve made reviews simple and powerful for hotels and travellers as they are 100% verified. You can only place a review with us if you’ve booked through us, so we know you’ve stayed. Hotels get instant right-of-reply, so they can always address issues directly on their page. As long as you allow reviews on your site that you cannot prove are authentic, you’re diluting the whole review economy.

  2. P. Jason King

    Although we are not ready to launch what will be the only true rating system available from a “Guest’s Perspective”, it will be a most important tool. We will NOT accept Advertisments from Hoteliers, Airlines, Cruiselines and the like. Advertisers cloud the truth when it comes to our reports. Right now with over 660 Ghosts in the field throughout North America we are providing only the clients who engage us with the “Good”, the “Bad” and the “Ugly” that is seen through our “Ghosts” eyes. Clients ranging from Hotels, Hotel Management Companies, Airlines, Cruise Lines, Theme Parks & Attractions and much more. Soon, as stated our Ghosts Reports & Revies will be available for the general public. We also developed and hold the patent for one of the oldest Ratings Patents issued in 2001. ALthough we have had many offers to purchase it and have even entertained them, it seems with the need growing every day for Consumers to know in advance who is doing their job or not has become a large issue.


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