FAKE tourists are damaging Fylde coast businesses by posting damning reviews online, according to a local hotelier who fell victim to the scam.
Boutique hotel Howarth House, on Clifton Drive, St Annes, is one of the establishments which has seen malicious false entries put on respected travel site TripAdvisor – and bosses said the phones went dead in the days after the bad reviews were posted.
Owner Dan Yates managed to get the first negative reviews removed from the site, but said the practice of posting false entries was hitting businesses across the Fylde coast hard.
Mr Yates, who runs the hotel alongside his mum Sue Howarth and brother Nick, told The Gazette: “They were horrendous reviews. I don’t know why people do it.
“They said it was a filthy, horrible place.
“If you get a bad review on TripAdvisor the phone goes quiet, it definitely affects your trade because people talk about the site all the time.
“They were taken down but why were they allowed to do two days worth of damage in the first place?”
Before getting reputation management company Kwickchex to arrange the removal of the fradulent reviews, Mr Yates emailed the reviewers to ask when they had stayed, but received no response to his queries.
One negative review currently remains on TripAdvisor, claiming the hotel was not open when a guest arrived to check in, a statement Mr Yates emphatically denies.
Claire Smith, president of Stay Blackpool and owner of Number One St Luke’s, in South Shore, has also fallen victim to the fraudsters.
She added: “I had one which was obviously someone who hadn’t stayed because they said they were waiting at the bar and I don’t have a bar – I’m not even licensed.
“There’s no way they could have stayed here.
“TripAdvisor has a lot of advantages but there’s an awful lot of disadvantages.
“How do they know the review is fakes because it’s your word against the guest’s?”
TripAdvisor’s site has tools in place for fraudulent reviews to be flagged and a statement on the site says “any attempt to mislead, influence or impersonate a traveller is considered fraudulent and will be subject to a penalty.”