The entire industry of reviewing hotels and restaurants is in the midst of a revolution that risks leading customers up the path to Fawlty Towers.
The traditional published guides, often compiled by independent inspectors, are struggling, while online sites where checks are few are proliferating.

A Sunday Times investigation has shown:

- “Guests” who have never even stayed at a hotel can boost or depress its rating by posting fake reviews.

- Poorly rated establishments can lift their reputations from one to four stars in a matter of hours by posting fictional positive reviews.

- Some establishments attempt to damage the reputations of rivals.

So tough is the competition that even top hotels and restaurants would consider placing fake reviews to maintain their status.

“Online sites are like a lucky dip. You may be lucky and you may find someone of reasonable judgment. On the other hand, you may have someone who is in the pocket of some hotel or restaurant. It really is a swamp.”

Nor are famous names necessarily a safeguard online. Fodor’s, the travel guide publisher, boasts that it has “spent over 65 years building a reputation for objectivity and high standards”, but its website is rather different to its printed guides.

Get the full story at Times Online