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.
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