Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fact or Fiction: Truthful Hotel Review Sites

Planning a vacation can be a fun, but challenging experience. Many of my clients come to me because they have researched their travels, but are stymied by the overwhelming amount of information that is readily accessible on the Internet. Once they have made a decision, oftentimes they will go to review sites like TripAdvisor, in order to obtain additional  information on their hotel selections, and get what they think are unbiased reviews. But are the reviews really so unbiased?

A report was done recently (I believe it was on NPR), where a lot of smaller more boutique type property owners were concerned and upset by the reviews their properties were receiving on such social review sites (and larger hotels are concerned too). Some of them (purportedly) accused their competition of placing derogatory reviews online in an effort to deter consumers from staying at their properties. They felt that many of the reviews were written by their competitors' employees, or even by the proprietors themselves. While they have no hard and fast evidence of this, they sited that quite often very few, if any of the reviews that they read were a true reflection of their property, and further, no one had ever made any of the allegations to them that they were reading online. Obviously, these property owners are upset and outraged by what they feel are unfair and inaccurate depictions of their properties, but what can they do now once it is out on the world wide web?

The statistics that have  been bandied about regarding these types of online review sites is that over 50% of travelers review these sites prior to making their final selections, and that if there are an overwhelming amount of negative reviews, they will not book that property. I tend not to frequent a lot of sites like this because there are so many disparate opinions on what each individual considers a "good" or "bad" property. What I've found in general, is that there are simply some people who can never be satisfied, and others, who are generally laid back and are much easier to please. Obviously there are circumstances where consumers receive sub par service, and they are right to lodge a complaint with the property. Also, there are varying individual opinions as to what is a: luxury, budget, or mid-level property; consequentially, if one person is staying at a property they deem as luxury, but in actuality it's more of a mid-level property, their expectations will be skewed by their own perception of what level of service they should experience.

In all fairness, there are some entry level expectations that all consumers have regarding a property. Cleanliness, no bugs, courteous customer service, and availability of their room upon check in, which are all reasonable expectations, but from there the lines can be blurred. I liken it to the comparison of cars. A person who purchases a 4-cylinder vehicle should not expect the same power as a German built, V-8 engine vehicle. It's not realistic, and as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for." I would not have the same expectations of a Holiday Inn Express that I would of a Four Seasons Property. That's just the reality of it.

As a blogger, when we review products and services for pay, we are required to advise on our site, or within the review that we have received some sort of compensation for that review. This will allow the consumer to be fully aware that the review could potentially be biased towards the product and/or service. I have not reviewed any products or services yet for any compensation, but I would like to think that I would provide a fair and accurate assessment if I did, because the consumer deserves to be told the truth - or at least the truth according to what I thought of that product or service at the time of my review.

Given the rise of information being stored for all eternity on the web, there are companies that are popping up to assist companies and individuals in protecting their online reputation. One such company is called (formerly Reputation Defender). Do I think online review sites are inherently bad? No, because I review hotels, restaurants and the like too, but if there are no checks and balances to even attempt to ensure the information is valid, then the information could potentially be deemed as untrustworthy and unreliable.

*photo used courtesy of and taken by jscreationzs

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