Luxury Hotels Are In An Arms Race Posting Fake Reviews To Outcompete Airbnb

Luxury hotels are more likely to post fake reviews than cheaper properties. That appears to be because people deciding on price are less influenced by reviews, while a decision to drop $500 or more per night on a resort will be influenced by more subjective and experiential elements of a stay.

It used to be that hotels would post fake negative reviews of competitors. But they’ve shifted away from that and more towards posting more fake positive reviews of their own properties, as Airbnb has grown, according to new research.

Before Airbnb grew to its current size, 15% – 30% of online reviews were believed to be fake. Usually “Hotel managers created fake customer reviews to boost their ratings and drag down their competitors. This “review manipulation” was highest among independent hotels in competitive markets.”

However, during the 8 years following the launch of Airbnb, “this new form of competition changed how hotels manipulated reviews.”

They found pressure from Airbnb listings led high-end hotels to increase their fake, positive reviews. But badmouthing other hotels with similar price points dropped off. Without the fake, negative reviews from their competing hotels, their overall ratings skewed higher.

…”We have shown the evidence that if there are more Airbnb listings available around high-end hotels, those hotels tend to self-promote more by posting fake positive ratings. Consumers need to be careful because the reviews, especially on Tripadvisor, may be inflated and not be truly representative of the quality,”

The conclusions are based on an analysis of 2188 hotels in 68 markets, and evaluated the effect of Airbnb using data from AirDNA – it was important to determine the quality of local homesharing listings because lower-end private rentals would be less likely to affect expensive resorts. The reviews they looked at were from Tripadvisor (which doesn’t correlate reviews with an actual stay) and Expedia (which does).

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