Travel website TripAdvisor ‘failing to stop fake reviews’: study

In December 2017, hoaxers briefly transformed a garden shed to London’s top restaurant on TripAdvisor. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2019
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Travel website TripAdvisor ‘failing to stop fake reviews’: study

  • The website had taken down hundreds of reviews after its investigation
  • ‘Hotels that abuse the system risk misleading millions of travelers and potentially ruining their holidays’

LONDON: US travel and restaurant website TripAdvisor has failed to do enough to stop fake hotel reviews, British consumer association Which? said in a study published on Friday.
A total 15 out of 100 top-rated hotels around the world displayed TripAdvisor reviews showing “blatant” signs of being fake, the study found.
TripAdvisor responded that it was committed to ensuring accurate information and catching fraudsters, while Which? added that the website had taken down hundreds of reviews after its investigation.
“TripAdvisor’s failure to stop fake reviews and take strong action against hotels that abuse the system risks misleading millions of travelers and potentially ruining their holidays,” said Naomi Leach, head of the Which? travel division.
She added: “Sites like TripAdvisor must do more to ensure the information on their platforms is reliable, and if they continue to fall short they should be compelled to make changes so holidaymakers are no longer at risk of being duped by a flood of fake reviews.”
TripAdvisor spokesman James Kay told the BBC that it would “very aggressively” weed out fake reviews.
“We are doing this more than any other platform out there,” he added.
Which? said it had identified problems at hotels in the Middle East, particularly in Cairo and also in Jordan.
And two Las Vegas hotels received almost half of their hundreds of five-star TripAdvisor reviews from first-time reviewers who had never used the site before — nor used it since.
Friday’s Which? study was published as British regulators seek to tackle the sale of fake and misleading online reviews.
The Competition and Markets Authority has already urged social media giant Facebook and auction marketplace eBay to stop the sale of fake reviews on their sites.
In December 2017, hoaxers briefly transformed a garden shed to London’s top restaurant on TripAdvisor.
“The Shed at Dulwich,” based in a south London back garden, offered invited guests conceptual dishes named after moods, including “Lust — rabbit kidneys on toast,” “Empathetic — vegan clams in a clear broth” and “Contemplation — a deconstructed Aberdeen stew.”
The non-existent eatery had worked its way up the rankings thanks to fake reviews sent from different computers to avoid TripAdvisor’s defenses, but it was rapidly removed.


Chill out: top cities for a cold winter break

Get planning that all-important vacation now. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 September 2019

Chill out: top cities for a cold winter break

DUBAI: Yes, we know, the summer holidays have barely ended. So is now really the time to discuss winter breaks? Well, we all need something to get us through the daily grind, right? And visualizing your next escape is a good way to beat those back-to-work (or –school) blues. Here are a few suggestions for great places to visit for a true ‘winter wonderland’ experience.

Bergen, Norway

Thanks to its coastal location near the Gulf Stream, the ancient city of Bergen can be up to 20 degrees warmer than Norway’s capital, Oslo, in the winter. (NB: It can still get very cold.) It’s a ridiculously picturesque location surrounded by astonishing scenery, from the mountains to the east to the fjords to the west. Its docks are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Vienna, Austria

The Austrian capital is so beautiful in the wintertime that it’s more like an artist’s imagining of a perfect winter scene than an actual place. And despite the temperatures, there is plenty to do and see even on the coldest days in this wonderful old city. It’s a great place all year round, but we’d recommend a visit to the winter market to really experience the magic of this place.

Bolzano, Italy

This unsung gem, located in a valley near the Dolomites range of the Italian Alps, might look like a typical provincial city, but as Lonely Planet says, Bolzano is “worldly and engaged, a long-time conduit between cultures.” Even if you don’t venture into the mountains themselves, at least take a cable car into the hills and enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery. It’s also a popular city for winter shopping, and Italians know how to shop.

Minneapolis, USA

It’s not the most obvious place to visit if you’re heading to America, but Minneapolis really shines in the winter. Aside from its numerous indoor options for culture-vultures and foodies (and its miles of climate-controlled pedestrian footbridges connecting much of downtown), the city is home to the Great Northern Festival (begins Jan. 23, 2020) — a 10-day celebration combining the premier winter events in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s, which includes carnivals, hockey championships, live shows and more, much of which is free.

Abisko, Sweden

This small town, north of the Arctic circle in Swedish Lapland, is just next to the stunning 75-square-kilometer Abisko National Park, which is widely recognized as possibly the best place in the world from which to view the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). As well as reindeer and lemmings, the park hosts the Aurora Sky Station — situated on Mt. Njullà — a site specifically created to ensure the best possible environment in which to view the phenomenon.