The soccer world cup is about to start, less than three weeks away now, and lots of cash-rich Europeans will be visiting the vast countryside of Russia and it’s many cities for the very first time.
Lots of Russian restaurants and hotels are eager to host them and make some extra cash, as in a period with falling roubles and heavy inflation, this extra income is very welcome (pun intended).
Now, of course, the question then becomes: how do you get some Danish or German first-time visitors to come to your restaurant or hotel specifically?
Well, unlike the Russian population, which is mostly one of sticking to the same places and word-of-mouth marketing, European visitors tend to rely on sites like Tripadvisor and Booking to make their judgments.
A Russian marketing agency has understood this very well and thus is now shamelessly offering fake reviews on Tripadvisor so that any Russian restaurant or hotel can make it to the top 10.
Bacon Agency, based in Moscow, sent brochures to restaurants in the various organising cities. One restaurant in the far-away town of Yekaterinburg, which will host Egyptian and Uruguayan tourists in their first rounds of play (quite the novelty over there) confirmed having received a pamphlet.
It stated: “What can you do if no Serbs and no Swedes have ever been to your venue and left a review?”
“You write it yourself! We are offering to help tourists find you, and to leave their money specifically with you.”
For some 35,000 roubles (about $500), the marketing agency promises a spot in TripAdvisor’s top 10 list by the time the World Cup starts on June 14th.
In true Russian fashion, Bacon Agency’s owner Mr Roman Baldanov even confirmed the practice: “We understand that all this is illegal in the sense that TripAdvisor is against it. We were just testing this niche, because we see high demand. It’s not because we’re bad guys who came in and said, look, you’ve got to start swindling … All restaurants know that reviews are ordered, and many use this service.”
“The response we got was: thanks, but we are already doing this ourselves.”