The Impact of Fake Online Reviews on the Travel Industry

July 14, 2021

The internet is a rich resource for travelers and genuine online reviews are beyond valuable when planning and booking a vacation online. Online review statistics show the average US traveler is spending more time selecting a destination with 95% of consumers reading reviews before making a final decision and 86% of consumers being influenced by negative online reviews. Travelers rely heavily on reviews when booking their vacation and a single negative review can cost you, 30 customers!

The fake online review market and “review farm” industry is booming! Online fraud and fake online reviews by “bad actors” and bot-driven services are all too common in the travel industry and are becoming highly profitable. A $250,000 outlay on fake reviews can generate more than $5 million in sales!

The internet is flooded with fake five-star reviews to boost bookings, fake negative reviews to bring down the competition (or for monetary advantage), and more bogus vacation rental listings than we wish to mention.

Tim Berners Lee, founder of the internet says, “While the web has created opportunity, given marginalized groups a voice, and made our daily lives easier, it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.’’

CHEQ, the leader in customer acquisition security (CAS), and Professor Roberto Cavazos, Executive in Residence in the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business, have compiled the first-ever in-depth analysis of the economic impact of fake online reviews, “The Economic Cost of Bad Actors on the Internet: Fake Online Reviews 2021”.

“Given the size of the market, the ease of entry and the immediate economic benefits, bad actors remain highly incentivized to engage in fake reviews in sectors such as travel,” said Professor Roberto Cavazos. “This complex market is adversely influencing our purchases, causing significant economic detriment, creating real revenue losses for businesses, and severely diminishing trust in online purchasing.”

The top 5 industries most affected by negative online reviews are fashion, beauty, entertainment, housewares, and electronics, with the travel industry ranking 6th on the list. The findings show that fake online reviews are set to cost $152 billion globally in 2021, directly impacting $4.1 billion in consumer spending in the US travel sector this year alone.

Overall, at least 4 percent of online reviews are fake with millions of online reviews unverified and deemed unreliable. Yelp has the highest percentage of fake reviews at 8 percent, Trust Pilot at 5.7 percent, Trip Advisor at 0.6 percent and Amazon at less than 1 percent.

How to Handle Fake Reviews

Building a solid online reputation for your brand takes time (and profits) and rogue reviews can be quick to negatively impact the credibility of your company, the perceived standard of your homes, and ultimately your bottom line.

Pay close attention to your listings on OTAs. Fake reviews are often anonymous or offer limited information, the details are vague and the quality of writing often poor. Use the latest tech tools and browser extensions to let you know the validity of the review, issue a standard response online, and, if details are provided, reach out to the “guest” personally. If you’ve been the target of a fake review, report it to the relevant OTA or online platform immediately! The right response to counteract these efforts is crucial.

Reviews are a powerful tool and the backbone of your online presence and brand. The power of the internet and social media allows reviews (both good and bad) to spread like wildfire and research shows it takes 40 positive reviews to undo the damage of a single negative review!

The fake online review market is real, so stay in the driver’s seat, track what people are saying about your business and protect your online reputation, it can make or break your business.