LAS VEGAS—Christine Petersen, president of TripAdvisor for Business, vouched Friday for the veracity of the thousands of hotel reviews on the company’s site.
“The No. 1 thing we stand for is the authenticity of our reviews,” she said during a general session at Best Western International’s annual convention. “We know if people come to the site and don’t believe the reviews, they won’t come back. And if you don’t come back, we don’t have a business.”
Petersen declined to identify all of the ingredients of the “secret sauce” TripAdvisor uses to identify honest reviews from those that are paid for, or negative comments intentionally posted by a hotel’s competitor. She did, however, list several of the factors the company looks for when deciding whether to boot a review from the site.
Those factors include:
the email system used by the reviewer in posting the review;
the IP address of the computer used to post the review;
the time of day, day of the week, week of the month and month of the year the review was written;
the syntax used in the writing of the review; and
whether the language in which the review was written matches the language of the country the hotel is in, or the official language of the TripAdvisor user’s location.
Every review kicked off the system is reviewed again by members of a TripAdvisor team, she said. Further, Petersen said the company relies heavily on users flagging reviews they believe look suspicious.
Petersen said hoteliers should be comforted by the fact that reviewers on the site also are peer-reviewed. “You can see what the community thinks of the reviewer,” she said.
Petersen often is asked why TripAdvisor doesn’t just go to a system where reviews can be authenticated. Such a process is not ideal for the company, Petersen said.
First, there are 50 reviews submitted to TripAdvisor every minute. That’s far too much volume to authenticate each and every review, she said. Secondly, Petersen said the company wants to provide as little interference as possible during the review process.
Petersen also took time to clear up what she said are some “misconceptions” the public has about the review site, including:
You can’t trust the reviews. Petersen said TripAdvisor has had 60 million unique visitors to the site year to date in 2012 and there are more than 75 million reviews on the site. The truth, she said, is bound to shine through when considering that kind of volume. “More reviews, more accurate,” she said.
The only people who post are people who want to complain. The average score of a hotel on TripAdvisor is 4.01 out of 5, Petersen said. “People are happy,” she said. “People around the world are eager to share positive experiences.”
Also, Petersen said a recent study TripAdvisor commissioned found that 74% of people reported they want to share a good hotel experience with others.
Finally, Petersen offered some words of wisdom when it comes to the negative hotel reviews that are on the site. She said a hotel’s management would be wise to respond to such a review.
“Management responses are the last word,” she said. “A carefully written management (response) is the end of the story.”