Are hotel review websites reliable?
In today’s digital age, it’s become easier than ever for travelers to check the quality of hotels around the world through websites such as Tripadvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com, etc. The idea behind these websites is simple; travelers post reviews about their recent stays and the websites rank the hotels based upon that feedback, often using complicated algorithms, but can these online reviews be trusted?
These rankings do not always reflect the true quality of the hotel however because they are based upon a traveler’s experience at the hotel and whether they felt they received a good value for what they paid. For example, a client who booked a five star luxury hotel for $500 a night may have felt that the hotel was not worth what they paid and will reflect that it their review which will then affect the hotel’s ranking. Conversely, a client who booked a three star budget hotel for $100 a night may have felt that the quality of the hotel was excellent for the price paid and will thus give the hotel a great review resulting in a higher ranking. This results in inconsistent rankings and many times causes three star hotels to be ranked higher than five star hotels even though the quality of the five star hotel in question may have been much higher than the three star one.
Some websites may also rank hotels that advertise with them higher than hotels that don’t. Many of these review sites also allow you to book a hotel directly through their website and then receive a commission for your booking. These facts alone directly call into question the impartiality of the review websites in the first place.
It is also an open secret in the travel industry that hotel owners write fake reviews for their own establishments to raise their rankings and then write scathing reviews of competing hotels in order to lower those rankings. All of the hotel review websites will claim that they have controls in place to weed out these fakes reviews, but how effective they are is open for debate.
When checking reviews online it’s a good idea to actually read through some of the comments left by the reviewers rather than just looking at the hotel’s ranking to make your decision. Keep in mind that many people only take the effort to review a hotel when they have had a bad experience, but when they have an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations they are less likely to post a positive review. When looking at hotel reviews you should discount both the high and low ratings and look for a common theme. If all the reviews are saying that the hotel is on a loud street and the noise was unbearable than that’s certainly something to consider, but if only one reviewer out of dozens mentioned this criticism than perhaps it’s a review you should consider discounting.
Rather than relying solely on review sites, it’s best for travelers to use those sites as just one tool when judging a hotel. Seeking out the advice of friends and family who have visited a particular city and have first hand knowledge of a hotel is a good place to start. The advice of a knowledgeable travel agent or tour operator is also indispensable since they have a vested interest in making sure that you’re staying in a good hotel in order to retain you as a future client; something that is unlikely to happen if they steer you wrong.