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A comparison of hotel ratings between verified and non-verified online review platforms

Paolo Figini (Department of Economics, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy and Centre for Advanced Studies in Tourism, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Laura Vici (Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy, and Center for Advanced Studies in Tourism, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy)
Giampaolo Viglia (Faculty of Business and Law, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research

ISSN: 1750-6182

Article publication date: 25 February 2020

Issue publication date: 17 April 2020

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367

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to compare the rating dynamics of the same hotels in two online review platforms (Booking.com and Trip Advisor), which mainly differ in requiring or not requiring proof of prior reservation before posting a review (respectively, a verified vs a non-verified platform).

Design/methodology/approach

A verified system, by definition, cannot host fake reviews. Should also the non-verified system be free from “ambiguous” reviews, the structure of ratings (valence, variability, dynamics) for the same items should also be similar. Any detected structural difference, on the contrary, might be linked to a possible review bias.

Findings

Travelers’ scores in the non-verified platform are higher and much more volatile than ratings in the verified platform. Additionally, the verified review system presents a faster convergence of ratings towards the long-term scores of individual hotels, whereas the non-verified system shows much more discordance in the early phases of the review window.

Research limitations/implications

The paper offers insights into how to detect suspicious reviews. Non-verified platforms should add indices of scores’ dispersion to existing information available in websites and mobile apps. Moreover, they can use time windows to delete older (and more likely biased) reviews. Findings also ring a warning bell to tourists about the reliability of ratings, particularly when only a few reviews are posted online.

Originality/value

The across-platform comparison of single items (in terms of ratings’ dynamics and speed of convergence) is a novel contribution that calls for extending the analysis to different destinations and types of platform.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank Marco Montanari for the precious assistance in data scraping; participants to the 2016 CBTS symposium held in Bruneck (Italy) on 14-16 December 2016 and to the 6th IATE Conference, held in Rimini (Italy) on 21-23 June 2017 for insightful comments. Financial assistance has been provided by UNIRIMINI within the project “Big Data and Destination Management”.

Citation

Figini, P., Vici, L. and Viglia, G. (2020), "A comparison of hotel ratings between verified and non-verified online review platforms", International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 157-171. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCTHR-10-2019-0193

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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