With thousands of travel sites available for users to choose from, each online booking agency must come up with a way to set their service apart. TripAdvisor found a solution that has been widely successful - allow travelers to leave reviews.
Travelers can review hotels, airlines, restaurants, or destination attractions. These reviews are published and available for prospective travelers to browse. This has helped users with their booking hesitations. If a hotel has received a number of rave reviews, odds are that it is a relatively nice place to stay.
These reviews have become quite powerful and the travel providers have taken notice. Any hotel or restaurant owner wants their business to be shared in the brightest light possible. However, getting people to write glowing reviews is much more difficult than getting unsatisfied customers to leave their thoughts. In an attempt to incentives customers, businesses started to reward travelers for leaving positive reviews.
This incentives process proved to be a problem for TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor depends on the honest evaluation of travelers. If prospective travelers can no longer trust the reviews left on the site, they will book elsewhere.
To combat this issue, TripAdvisor came out with their own policy essentially banning businesses from rewarding reviewers. TripAdvisor defined incentives as, "Incentives are any rewards or preferential treatment offered to guests in exchange for writing reviews." Incentives could include drawings or raffles, discounts, or any form of special treatment.
If a business is caught incentivizing customers, TripAdvisor states that, "penalties will be given to properties that offer incentives to their guests for writing reviews. In all cases, reviews in question will be removed and properties will no longer be eligible for TripAdvisor awards. Further penalties are given on a case-by-case basis and range from a warning to a red badge added to your property listing. The red badge warns prospective guests that a property has not adhered to TripAdvisor policy. It also significantly impacts the property's popularity ranking."
TripAdvisor has also put systems in place to keep incentivized reviews from being published on their site. These safeguards have been outlined and published for both travelers and business owners to see. The three ways TripAdvisor claims to catch incentivized reviews include:
Maintaining the integrity of the review aspect of their site is vital to TripAdvisor.