Here' a summary of an interesting piece in today's New York Times by travel writer, Christopher Elliott. He exposes something that we have known for months. That is, most of the popular Web sites featuring consumer reviews of travel service providers contain biased reviews that are bought and paid for. These sites include TripAdvisor.com, Citysearch.com and IgoUgo.com, where you are lead to believe that you'll find thousands of ratings written by real guests, or so you are lead to believe.
One frequent business traveler became increasingly skeptical of what she saw online. "I read reviews of hotels that I've stayed at," she said. "And they're just wrong. I wonder if they've really stayed at the hotel."
On a recent visit to a spa in New York, she says, her doubts turned to disbelief: the resort was discreetly offering a free reflexology treatment to customers who posted a positive review of the establishment on Citysearch.com. "It was very troubling," she said.
The travel suppliers justify their actions, by claiming that out-of-context complaints by disgruntled guests need to be countered by fabricated positive comments.
So disgruntled guests and defensive travel service providers are exploiting a Web service that lacks the safeguards of the traditional travel guidebooks and a travel professional's first-hand experience.