Fake web review pitch riles owner
Businesses are being offered a fake Trip Advisor review service, where they can pay for positive ratings.
Hotel d'Urville owner Chris Birks received an email last week from a service called TripAdvisor Reviews offering "excellent" scores to make his online profile stand out from competitors in Blenheim.
The service cost $97 for six reviews, $197 for 13 reviews, and $297 for 20 reviews.
Trip Advisor is a website where members of the public can review accommodation, restaurants and tourism attractions, and read reviews that others have written.
TripAdvisor is investigating the offers of fake reviews.
The Tourism Industry Association issued a media release yesterday warning New Zealand tourism operators against the service.
The release said businesses around the country had been sent the email and it was unclear whether the email originated from New Zealand or elsewhere.
Birks said TripAdvisor had become a popular tool for people choosing where to eat or stay. Many customers of Hotel d'Urville, a restaurant and hotel on Queen St, used TripAdvisor.
"It wields a lot of power," he said.
"It's a bit disappointing when you work so hard to do well, and someone undermines it."
The restaurant, which is ranked number 10 out of 77 in Blenheim, has 4.5 stars out of five and 129 reviews.
Birks said the online profile occasionally got a mediocre review, which was fair enough if it was justified.
Fake TripAdvisor reviews was cheating but there was not a lot anyone could do about it, he said.
"It's out of our control, all we can do is maintain our profile," he said.
Tourism Industry Association New Zealand chief executive Martin Snedden strongly advised against buying fake reviews.
TripAdvisor was investigating the email, Sneddon said.
It was vital that travellers in New Zealand could trust TripAdvisor's reviews, he said. "We suggest they [travellers] should check a range of reviews and websites, as well as seeking advice from the likes of i-Site visitor information centres."
The Marlborough Express