Holidaymakers warned over 'too good to be true' web reviews

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The Independent Travel

Most British holidaymakers would be forgiven for trying to find out as much as possible about their travel destinations before booking tickets. But new research suggests that many popular travel review websites, the fastest growing source of information on holiday destinations, may not be as reliable as some of their trusting users think they are.

A report in the consumer magazine Holiday Which? found that holidaymakers are increasingly susceptible to bogus opinions from fraudsters seeking to boost their profits by posting overly positive reviews about their destinations online. Thousands of reviews motivated by commercial interest have made appearances on popular travel websites.

According to Ian Rumgay of tripadvisor.co.uk, one luxury Florida resort emailed staff asking their friends and family to write positive reviews about the resort and post them on the reviews website.

Rumgay insists that websites like tripadvisor.co.uk go to enormous lengths to censor and monitor reviews which they consider suspicious. "We have a team that go through every single review in detail before publication", said Rumgay. "Yes, one or two occasionally slip through the net. But the vast majority only make it onto our website if they're genuine".

The Government's Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which comes into effect in April 2008, will give local Trading Standards officials the power to prosecute managements which inaccurately represent themselves .

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