Online Travel Giants Expedia, TripAdvisor Under Fire For Rating Systems

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(Photo: Marinela Prodan)
(Photo: Marinela Prodan)

BUSINESS

  • Expedia to conduct thorough overhaul of rating system 
  • Total number of verified reviews available to Expedia customers to total over 7.5 million
  • TripAdvisor criticized for its instant 1-to-5 rating system

Online travel booking site Expedia is modifying its review system after recent controversial hotel ratings. The driving factor behind this initiative is increased pressure from the hotel industry, which is trying to fight against unfavorable ratings from competitors and sometimes fake or paid-for review writers.

Expedia.com says it will conduct a “thorough overhaul” of its hotel reviews feature. “As part of this overhaul, Expedia will incorporate all verified reviews from its sister company, Hotels.com, into its collection, which will bring the total number of verified reviews available to Expedia customers to total more than 7.5 million,” writes Hotel Online.

One major change in the review program is in its relevancy: travelers can write reviews for a particular audience of their choosing, such as foodies or dog-lovers. The impact of that is that groups with special interests, families for example, can sort through a collection of reviews written by other mothers or fathers who have stayed with children in a particular city.

“Reviewers have an option to choose their review target audience as families, business travelers, couples, students or other, with the final category an open field,” says Hotel Online. About 2 million existing reviews have been categorized as written for families, business travelers and couples.

Reviewers can also now post their own photos along with their write-ups. 

“When (travelers) come to Expedia, we provide them with the best travel making experience on the web,” says John Kim, a senior vice president who says the reviews with photos will provide a comprehensive view of rated hotels.

Expedia has also implemented a “thank the reviewer” feature so readers can show their appreciation to the reviewer if the article has been helpful. The actual process of submitting reviews has also been streamlined and simplified.

TripAdvisor Review Dilemma: Fake or Real?

TripAdvisor has also come under fire for its rating system. “The latest controversy follows hot on the heels of a reprimand from the Advertising Standards Authority, which forced TripAdvisor to remove misleading claims that its reviews are posted by real people – TripAdvisor had to admit that it could not tell how many of its reviews were fake,” says a travel industry blog.

In late February, TripAdvisor introduced a new rating system that scores hotels and restaurants out of five without the need to leave a review. Only a few weeks later, it was pulled after many hotel owners complained of low scores.

One clear complaint was that the ratings left no any specific review comments to know the reasons for a poor rating. Meanwhile, the ratings system provoked similarly strong reactions among the TripAdvisor reviewing community, with many taking to forums to express their concern that the anonymous ratings were undermining the integrity of the scoring system, wrote Caterer and Hotelier.

But despite the reaction to the system, a spokesperson for TripAdvisor did not rule out a return. "We believe that the TripAdvisor community is seeking many ways to provide feedback, whether via ratings, photos, room tips or other opinions, and we will continue to look at ways to gather these opinions to help travelers plan and have the perfect trip."

A timeline has not been given for its reintroduction.

Key Statistics - Global Hotel Industry (source: MarketLine) 

  • The global hotels & motels industry grew by close to 7% in 2010 to reach a value of over $583 billion.
  • In 2015, the global hotels & motels industry is expected to have a value of close to $848 billion, marking an increase of 45% since 2010.
  • The Americas accounts for 43% of the global hotels & motels industry value.

By David Wilkening for
David Wilkening is a former newspaperman who worked in Chicago, Detroit and Orlando. He now specializes in travel and real-estate business writing.

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