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Trivago wants to pay British travellers for hotel reviews in an attempt to make its comparison website more authentic and trustworthy.
The website has said it will pay between £30 and £70 ($50 to $116) for questionnaires filled out by “mystery guests” as part of a new hotel testing programme designed to boost confidence in the accuracy and validity of its reviews.
Potential reviewers must first sign up as a hotel tester (at trivago.co.uk/hoteltest ) before booking a stay at a hotel that has agreed to be tested. They will have to pay full price for a room, but can expect to have an average of 40 per cent of the cost refunded into their bank account on completion of a questionnaire about their stay.
Currently, there are six hotels in London that can be tested and between two and five in other cities.
The mystery guest tests were first launched by Trivago in Germany and more than 20,000 hotel tests from 600 hotels in 20 European cities have been completed so far. Now the company is hoping that British holidaymakers will want to save money through trivago.co.uk and claims the price of some hotels could be reduced to just £10 a night.
The questionnaire will be standardised and cover more than 400 criteria covering hotel amenities, service and personal preferences and booking behaviour. Questions such as “Has your stay been disturbed by any construction works?” are also included to account for unusual circumstances, which should not unfairly distort the hotel’s overall rating.
Rather than each review being posted however, the questionnaire results will be aggregated to create a “trustworthy” profile of the hotel, Trivago told Telegraph Travel.
A spokesman explained: “After testing, the hotel profile on Trivago is not based on one individual tester, but rather a weighted aggregation in which personal influences are minimised.”
Hotels that want to receive mystery guests will have to pay a fee to take part, which starts at £2,000. In return Trivago promises them bookings, which it ensures by increasing the hotel’s visibility on the website, and an improved profile due to the extensive, unbiased feedback.
The move follows criticism of online reviews, including those on rival website TripAdvisor, for being unreliable and occasionally fake.
The Advertising Standards Authority ruled in February 2012 that TripAdvisor must not imply that all of its reviews were from real travellers, or were honest, real or trustworthy. As a result of that ruling, it no longer includes the phrase “reviews that you can trust” on its UK website.
In May last year a prolific reviewer was unmasked as a senior executive at Accor, one of the world’s largest hotel groups (he wrote dozens of glowing reviews about his own properties, and negative ones about rivals), and in July a non-existent restaurant in Brixham rose to the top of TripAdvisor’s rankings.