HOLIDAYMAKERS have been warned about relying on online reviews when boking their next trip, with some hotels accused of faking public feedback.
Companies have been flooding review forums with positive comments in an effort to up their ratings.
Research from Iowa State University shows an increase in fake hotel reviews in recent years, particularly at higher-end establishments.
Previously, multiple studies suggested that as much as 30 per cent of feedback on sites like TripAdvisor were fake, be it positive or negative.
However, that number is reportedly on the rise, as hotels struggle to compete with property sharing sites like AirBnb and Vrbo.
According to the new study, fake reviews have become a marketing strategy for a number of hotels in the fightback against the holiday home market.
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The main increase in fakes appear to be among posh hotels, who are flooding their review pages with positive comments.
It's good news for those of us who can't afford a five-star hotel stay though – the research also showed that there were far less fake reviews for budget hotels.
This is thought to be because people booking cheaper hotels are less likely to be guided by other people's opinions and instead more interested in prices.
Therefore, online reviews and feedback for cheaper hotels are also considered to be more genuine than reviews for more expensive resorts.
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Cheng Nie, one of the researchers involved in the study told the NZ Herald: "A lot of people who stay at low-end hotels are less likely to pay attention to reviews compared to people trying to decide if a $500 (£433) resort is worth their money."
Some websites are considered to be more reliable than others for feedback as well.
For example, TripAdvisor allows any user to post a review on a hotel, even if they have no proof that they stayed there at all.
However, Expedia only permits customers who have booked a night at an accommodation to leave feedback.
Of course, hotels could still pay for rooms and leave reviews that way, but the researchers described that as "less likely" to happen.
They advise comparing reviews on both sites to get an indication of the "level of review manipulation".
Nie said: "We have shown the evidence that if there are more Airbnb listings available around high-end hotels, those hotels tend to self-promote more by posting fake positive ratings.
"Consumers need to be careful because the reviews, especially on Tripadvisor, may be inflated and not be truly representative of the quality."
Sun Online Travel has contacted TripAdvisor for comment.
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