The manager's dilemma: a conceptualization of online review manipulation strategies

Taylor & Francis Online
Current Issues in Tourism

Online evaluations are one of the most important innovations in tourism in recent years, often combining a review/rating (business-specific evaluation) and a ranking (inter-business comparison). As online reputation determines economic success, tourism managers may be tempted to manipulate online content. This paper presents the results from a qualitative study involving 20 hotel managers in southern Sweden, and their perspectives on manipulation. Results confirm that there exists a wide range of review manipulation strategies, many of which are difficult to control. Even though only few managers appear to systematically manipulate, online evaluations represent a significant challenge for businesses, as they introduce direct competition and foster consumer judgement cultures. It is postulated that managers will increasingly find themselves in a Prisoner's dilemma, representing a situation where engaging in manipulation is the most rational choice in an increasingly competitive market situation.