Can you trust online hotel reviews? The debate heats up

If you choose a hotel based on glowing social media comments — “OMG, I love this place!” — you may be relying on bogus or insufficient information.

That assessment came from Market Metrix, a Bay Area-based hotel market research company, in a study that found up to 40% of reviews could be made up or even paid for by the hotels.

And even if those online comments are genuine, the study said the reviews could be skewed because hotel guests with bad experiences are three times more likely to write a review than those who had a good or neutral experience.


The study also argued that young people are overrepresented in social media reviews. Only 20% of adults over the age of 50 participate in social media, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

“There is a big segment that doesn’t play in that area,” said Jonathan Barsky, co-founder and chief research officer for Market Metrix.

But Market Metrix may be biased on the subject. The company is in the business of offering hotels what it says is a better way to gauge guest sentiments: guest surveys.

Last week TripAdvisor, one of the world’s largest travel websites, defended the value of social media reviews with a survey that found that 98% of those questioned said TripAdvisor hotel reviews accurately reflected their experience. The study was conducted by PhoCusWright.

The survey of 2,739 visitors to the website also found that 74% said they write reviews not to critique, but because they want to share good experiences with other travelers.


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