I have done some investigation here about Tripadvisor. I have worked with hotels for many years and this is what I can say for sure.
Hotel owners, mostly independent hotels, have lost control of their industry. Third parties have taken over while having little or no investment. These third parties, i.e. Tripadvisor, Hotels.com, Expedia and Hotwire, all of which are owned by Barry Diller have turned the independent owner into a pawn by having the ability to manipulate the reviews in such a way that they can actually redirect customers without them even knowing it.
How so? O.K. Go to Tripadvisor pick a city and see what you find. A list of hotels in a rating system from one to whatever number. If we believe the reviews some might have 15 reviews and are rated # 1, 2 or 3 (often these hotels have only recently signed up with these third parties). Then one will have 100 reviews and be rated somewhere in the so so area. [continued below]....
..... Yet the 100 reviews have 75 very good ratings. The highest rated one could very well be an old hotel under new management and it might have been a dump in its previous listing life. The new hotel owner swiftly loads his fake reviews by having his family and associates post fake 5 star reviews. Tripadvisor can not stop these fakes if they are loaded in by different computers with different IP addresses. Think Kinko's, UPS stores, etc. or even office depot while appearing to be looking to purchasing a new laptop.
This also applies to the other side of the picture. Someone loads bad reviews of their competitor. Or a crazy customer that did not get a discount and just creates new email accounts and looks like 30 different people. This all happens on tripadvisor every day. Because they do not require proof of you even having stayed at the hotel.
Now lets look at how Tripadvisor makes money. They make a % of every unit booked on Hotels.com, Expedia, Hotwire or an affiliate. No you say tripadvisor does not get a commission. Well kind of? They get a pay per click fee from most of their links. So the more they keep you going in circles the better. More clicks.
However Expedia, Hotwire and Hotels.com are owned by the same person that owns Tripadvisor. 25-35% of the hotel rate is what they get. Some hotels have contracts that are better for Expedia, etc. so you are now very cleverly directed to these hotels. How? By manipulating the reviews that is how. They remove negative reviews or hold back positive ones. Do they write them? No they just maneuver them. Which is the same thing in my book.
Also most of the time there is no discount at all. You just think you got one. Just check the room rate or call the hotel before booking and you will see that.
Now in the beginning these third parties were great for independent hotels because it got them in with the big boys on the web. Where can a small independent advertize. They could not take ads in every city in the world. So that was good in the start. However when Barry Diller saw the manipulation that was possible he began to purchase these companies and here we sit today all arguing with one another while he rakes in the cash.
The last thing that no one gets is this. Third parties have raised the price of rooms over the years. Hoteliers have adjusted prices to include their third parties commissions. Just a fact of doing business. As usual the angels become the devil and that what third party bookers have become.
Always call the hotel before booking. Because third party bookings get the worst rooms in a hotel because your booking is classified as a bargain hunter. If you book direct you get treated better and you have a direct relationship with the hotel not some third party that holds the hotel, less commission, funds for up to 30 days or more. Many times if there is a problem the hotel will tell Expedia to refund a guest payment. In that event what sometimes happens is the guest is told that the hotel would not refund the money. Then the hotel does not get the funds and Expedia keeps it all. No you say! They would not do that! Well let me show you how far they will go. Lets say you book a $100.00 + tax and the Hotel is paid $70.00 + tax. Where do you think the tax on $30.00 goes. Nowhere Expedia keeps it. Now if a company will cheat every city in the world out of sales taxes what do you think they will do to you. "BARRY DILLER" you are a piece of work!