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TripAdvisor, the huge consumer review site for travelers, has cut a new deal with lodging giant Marriott that provides instant links to Marriott’s booking system from the TripAdvisor site. That’s not unusual in the world of online travel, but it has some observers wondering whether TripAdvisor is putting profits ahead of the reliability of its reviews.
Of course, the veracity of “consumer” reviews on many websites has long been questioned, especially those that require no verification of the poster’s identity or experience. Employees of a particular hotel may have gone online to praise it, and competitors may post harshly negative comments.
Still, TripAdvisor has a generally good reputation and a large following. How will the Marriott affiliation affect that? Ed over at the Pizza in Motion blog noted that a routine hotel search on TripAdvisor turned up a results map with an ad for Marriott properties.
An analysis by the Huffington Post suggests that the affiliation could skew the placement of Marriott’s properties in search results, and is likely to lead to a greater number of positive Marriott reviews on TripAdvisor, according to an academic study.
In its announcement, Marriott says that the TripAdvisor deal will be “mutually beneficial to both partners from a strategic and economic standpoint,” (i.e., TripAdvisor will be paid for bookings it generates, although Marriott doesn’t say how much), and also that it “maintains our ability to control where the rates and inventory for Marriott’s hotels are displayed.”
Related: Do you trust hotel review sites?
Our advice for folks flummoxed by TripAdvisor reviews is to use Expedia’s reviews instead— there are fewer, which makes parsing easier, and all reviewers are verified as guests… so you can’t fake a review. In fact, Marriott even has its own inventory of verified reviews on its website; comment cards that are filled out by guests are posted word for word, the company says.
How much do you rely on online reviews when choosing a hotel? Which ones do you find the most reliable? What’s your impression of TripAdvisor?
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