In addressing a report on the deceptive online advertising for two hotels in one of China's UNESCO World Heritage towns, Lijiang in Yunnan Province, the government has said it will put a zero-tolerance policy into action and prevent unfair competition in order to protect tourists' rights.
The two hostels in Lijiang were accused of using misleading advertising, dishonorably pushing up online ratings and having low-quality service in the report initiated by a grant from China Central Television (CCTV).
An announcement was made later by the government of Lijiang on Sunday, saying the two hotels - Windflower Snow Moon Hotel and Your Hotel - were shut down and are currently facing investigation.
The screenshot of Lijiang's government's announcement online.
In CCTV's report, the room one customer had booked was based on its high ranking on Meituan.com, an online booking website, but it turned out to be disorganized, messy and completely different from what was advertised online. Besides, the customer was told he would be fined 100 yuan (15 U.S. dollars) if he killed a mosquito in his room as they were kept as "pets."
False online advertising has been found in the second hotel, too, such as misleading descriptions of major tourists attractions, rooms, facilities and general amenities.
One customer said he booked the hotel based on the online ratings, but ended up very disappointed.
It's hard to imagine how a hotel like this could stand out from the over 5,000 hotels online in Lijiang, even appearing on Meituan's homepage as top-ranked among a variety of hotels.
According to the report, the precondition for getting a high online rankings is based on the number of online bookings. The Windflower Snow Moon Hotel and Your Hotel have been booked over 5,000 times, which is among the highest number on Meituan.
If this hotel is so not liked by the customers, where did all that high rankings from? The answer is a "click farm": a place where fake ratings and rankings are generated for mobile apps and social media posts.
"We do eight reviews each day for every single hotel," the staff member said, "you can't do too much at a time, people will be aware of if it's real."
The staff were also forced to boost the ratings of the hotel by faking reviews and deleting negative ones.
As of Sunday, the two hotels are no longer available on Meituan.