Tripadvisor’s reputation in the travel industry

Many people within the travel industry hate Tripadvisor. Some hotels hate it because it allows anyone to post a review, whether they actually stayed at the hotel or not – and even some guests can leave monumentally unfair reviews that can be reputation-damaging. Travel journalists and travel agents often hate Tripadvisor because, well, it’s doing their job, isn’t it?

I don’t hate Tripadvisor*. I think it’s an incredibly useful tool that has changed the way we research travel, given a wealth of information to the public and in many cases forced hotels to up their game. It does have some fairly important flaws however. The hotels will point to the anonymity aspect, but I don’t think that’s the main issue. The major flaws are as follows:


1. You don’t know who wrote the review

You don’t need to know the reviewer personally, of course. But what’s important is their background, what they expect and what they’re accustomed to. A review of an average three star hotel, for example, could have been written by someone who usually stays in backpacker hostels and thus feels it’s a relative palace.

Similarly, it could have been written by someone who usually stays in the world’s most luxurious hotels – and they’ll probably think the reasonable accommodation is an absolute disgrace.

Background and priorities make a difference too. Some people think free Wifi in a room is essential, others don’t care. People in the former category are likely to be more scathing towards an otherwise excellent hotel.

Asian travellers tend to like a separate bath and shower, Americans are more facilities obsessed, and Europeans will often value charm and intimacy over a big list of what’s provided. Put any one of them in the wrong place for them, and they may be unreasonably harsh on what’s not necessarily a bad hotel – just a poor choice.


2. There’s no comparison point

Tripadvisor ratings don’t reflect how good the hotel is in comparison to other hotels. They reflect how satisfied a customer was with the particular hotel they stayed at. This is not the same thing. Most Tripadvisor reviewers will have only stayed at one hotel in the city they’re in. They may think it’s brilliant, but they’ve no idea how comparatively brilliant it is. For all you know, there could be fifty other hotels nearby that offer much better value for money.


David Whitley, owner of Best Hotels In

*I suppose I should say “and other review sites” as well, but Tripadvisor is by far the biggest and most used.



4 Responses to The problem with Tripadvisor

  1. Jack says:

    Number 1 is the deal breaker for me as far as TA is concerned. TA’s useful but seriously flawed – problem is most people don’t realise this. Twitter suffers from a similar problem in terms of lack of objectivity.
    With TA there’s also the whole question of the DE status. Often this is Billy Bolton who has been going to the same hotel, same restaurant and same bar for 20 years – not exactly the guy to give fully rounded advice.

  2. Jeremy Head says:

    Of course, broadly speaking I agree with you – but they are making progress with issue #1. Log in with Facebook to TA and now your friends’ reviews are prioritised above the rest. Not the complete answer to the problem, but an interesting development.

  3. Ah yes, but why would I trust a Facebook friend’s review? A lot of my Facebook friends have dreadful taste, and virtually none of them stay in more than one hotel when they go anywhere…

  4. I have been a UK travel agent for over 20 years. I recommend hotels to suit each individual client. What one client would love, another would hate. So, when they check out the hotel I have recommended to them on TA and there are few bad comments on there, they come back to me and say, how can you say it’s a good hotel with all the bad comments on there. I have to justify the hotel and give reasons why it would be great for them. I only normally have to do this once and they have a great stay and don’t ever bother with TA again. In this world of the internet and dozens of review websites, a Personal Travel Advisor that REALLY knows you, is something everyone will should have. It won’t cost them anything, they will get great deals, save time and have a wonderful holiday that is just perfect FOR THEM.

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