Do you always trust travel reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor? You might want to be more careful. A hotel executive was recently busted for posting reviews about his hotels and rivals.
According to Telegraph Travel, Peter Hook, a communications manager for Accord hotels in Asia and the Pacific was busted by the online reputation management firm Kwikchex following the introduction of TripAdvisor's new Facebook app. The app identifies users by a name, photographg and location because it is connected to Facebook, while the TripAdvisor site only identifies review posters by a username.
There were 106 reviews in 43 cities from a user named Tavare over the past few years. The app identified Hook as the user from Sydney and his photo was next to the app reviews. It's the same picture on his LinkedIn profile.
Hook posted five-star reviews for Accor properties like the Sea Temple Surfers Paradise ("I took advantage of a good price and really loved it from start to finish"), the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, the Novotel Manchester Centre, the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa Denarau Island Viti Levu and more.
He also posted negative reviews about rival hotels like the Park Hyatt Sydney ("the very ordinary bar food, high prices and ordinary service didn't match the music or the light show"), and the InterContinental Adelaide ("stuck in a time warp and rather expensive").
Hook admitted that he wrote the reviews, but he says that he visited each hotel and the reviews were honest.
"Every review I have written has resulted from personally experiencing the product," he told Telegraph Travel. "There have been 5-star reviews of competitors - most recently Four Seasons' excellent Sydney restaurant The Woods - as well as less-than-favourable comments about our own properties. Because I cover such a wide range of travel experiences, it would not be appropriate to review them as a company representative, hence the pseudonym. However, it is a fair to say that my professional position should have been mentioned in any reviews of hotels."
Hook said he will no longer review hotels but will continue to review other things like restaurants and attractions.
"I am a great believer in Trip Advisor and its value to the travelling public," he said. "I think it is usually fairly clear from each review as to whether it is 'reasonable' and I believe that in all my reviews I've been 'reasonable'."
TripAdvisor has guidelines that prohibits property owners or employees from reviewing a property.
"It would clearly be inappropriate for a senior executive of a hotel company to review hotels within their own company. All hotel reviews posted by this member are being removed pending investigation," a TripAdvisor spokesman said.
"As well as all reviews being screened by our world-class tools for fraud, we also benefit from a large and passionate community of more than 200 million monthly visitors who let us know if something is potentially amiss, as in this case."
Accor also claims to have rules against posting reviews without being transparent.
"Accor shares on its intranet with all its employees a social media charter that clearly stipulates that employees 'must ensure complete transparency with regards to their own identity and their relation to the Accor group' when stating their views on social media. We do regret this individual initiative from one of our employees did not comply with the Accor charter," a spokesman told Telegraph.