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Does interest alignment between hotels and online travel agencies intensify review manipulations?

Yan Chen (Department of Decision Sciences, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau, China)
Tianwei Tang (Department of Decision Sciences, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau, China)
Yongjian Li (Department of Decision Sciences, Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau, China)
Di Fan (Institute of Textiles and Clothing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hongkong, China)

Industrial Management & Data Systems

ISSN: 0263-5577

Article publication date: 16 March 2021

Issue publication date: 7 June 2021

335

Abstract

Purpose

This study examines whether a higher interest alignment between online travel agencies (OTAs; hosting platform) and hotels (business owners) will intensify review manipulation activities.

Design/methodology/approach

With a panel data set collected from a Chinese online travel agency and a travel search engine, the authors develop a matching-based difference-indifference approach to examine the presence of partnership-intensified review manipulation.

Findings

The authors find that the ratings of agency's partner hotels (with a higher interest alignment) are abnormally higher than those of matched non-partner hotels (with a lower interest alignment), after they are benchmarked with their ratings on the search engine (without a partnership business model). Further, the analysis results indicate that this partnership-intensified manipulation deteriorates the hotel's sales performance because of damaged customer trust and satisfaction.

Originality/value

Previous studies implicitly assume that review manipulator is independent from the hosting platform. This is the first study examining the role of the hosting platform in review manipulations.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the review team for their insightful comments and suggestions which have significantly improved the quality of this study.Funding: This work was supported by Internal Research Fund of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Project ID: P0034251) and National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant [number 71801233].

Citation

Chen, Y., Tang, T., Li, Y. and Fan, D. (2021), "Does interest alignment between hotels and online travel agencies intensify review manipulations?", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 121 No. 6, pp. 1435-1456. https://doi.org/10.1108/IMDS-11-2020-0657

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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