Saturday, April 21, 2012

Banning Unverified Online Reviews

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have a balancing act by trying to appease consumers and their accommodation suppliers that provide room inventory. 

I looks like Travelbug has reacted to feedback from its suppliers that were receiving uncomplimentary "unverified" reviews on their Travelbug property listings from anyone that was willing to leave a name and an email address. 

Gather a group of accommodation providers together and start talking about "unverified" online reviews and it doesn't take long for the rage to escalate. For consumers, it's not an issue as they seem to easily decipher unverified accommodation reviews before booking an appropriate accommodation choice.  

Travelbug announced that they will now only allow "verified" reviews sourced from responses to email prompts sent to customers after their accommodation stay and presumably from customers that use the same email address that they provided when they booked.

It is questionable if the unverified reviews gave an overall slanted view on accommodation experiences on Travelbug, however it is sad that their easily accessible feedback system may have been abused. 

Will the removal of the ability for members of the public to post an unverified review disconnect some users and take away an element of compelling content from consumers browsing Travelbug? Maybe - so that's why it was a brave decision for Travelbug to make.

In an email to suppliers on Friday, Travelbug states:

Since we launched Travelbug in 2007, one of the most common queries we have had about reviews from operators has been, "why do you let people comment who didn't even book on Travelbug?!"

Well, good news! This week we have changed the review system and the only reviews that will now appear on Travelbug are from those that we can verify as having booked through our system. All reviews that meet the criteria will receive the 'verified review' badge. We want to have a site where travellers keep each other informed, but that information needs to be from as reliable source as possible. This change should make all reviews more reliable.

You can read a little more of the background to the change on our blog here.

Some operators will see a drop in the number of reviews on their Travelbug page due to the removal of old unverified reviews. Some will notice that their rating has improved due to the removal of old unverified thumbs down reviews and some may see the opposite. This change is better for the site as a whole and you can now be sure that you will never see a review placed on your page by someone who didn't book through us or from someone who is seeking out review sites to vent their spleen.

So, there are three ways in which a review will be badged as "verified" on Travelbug:

1. A traveller makes a booking on Travelbug and comments on Travelbug

2. A traveller makes a booking direct with you if you are a using BookIt in your website, and comments when prompted by BookIt via email

3. A traveller makes a booking on a BookIt reseller (eg your local RTO site) and comments when prompted by BookIt via email

If you have any questions, please let me know, and have a great weekend.

Cheers - Daniel & the Travelbug Team 

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