85% of British hotels fall victim to malicious or false online reviews
85% of British hotels and restaurants have fallen victim to malicious or fake online reviews, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and the Restaurant Association.
The figures are up 20% on the last survey two years ago, in which 65% of hospitality operators said they had experienced trouble online.
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The hospitality body said that the rapid growth of online review sites and technologies meant that regulation had not kept pace with new ways of doing business.
It also expressed concerns about a lack of transparency and the risk that global digital firms could stifle business growth in the hospitality sector, of which over 90% of which are SMEs.
“Online reviews sites are hugely important for the reputations of hospitality businesses and allow consumers to make informed decisions,” said Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA.
“However, the relentless and largely unregulated growth of the digital intermediaries means that hospitality businesses in the real world – who often pay large commissions to these sites on bookings – are at the mercy of these firms. More must be done to tackle fake and malicious reviews and provide greater transparency in the rating systems.”
The BHA also found that half of the businesses surveyed said that the threat of a bad online review had been used to blackmail them into giving a refund to the customer.
What's more, when asked if review sites were helpful in dealing with these blackmail attempts more than 60% of respondents said that the most popular platforms were not helpful.
More than 60% of respondents also pointed out that transparency is a serious issue with website rankings that are based not on reviews but on complicated algorithms that the consumer is unaware of.
Despite this, the hospitality sector also recognised the benefits of having a presence on online review platforms, with 71% saying that they were useful tools for their business.