Saturday, 14 January 2012

Some rules for Tripadvisor

Like most people I love going on holiday.

But if there is one thing I love more than going on holiday then it is planning to go on holiday.

I spend hours on the internet looking for flights, hotels, car hire, restaurants and things to do and as my wife will testify by the time the holiday comes things are pretty much planned out to the hour (you can probably guess that she loves this, she just pretends not to).

There is one website that helps me in my quest for perfect planning more than any other and that is Tripadvisor.com .

If you know Tripadvisor.com you will probably agree with me it's one of the best websites ever.

If you don't know it's basically a directory of hotels, restaurants and so on that covers the whole  world and where the reviews are written by you, the traveller.

I was therefore a little perturbed to see a segment on BBC News this week commenting that the website might not be the most, ahem, balanced website in the world.

A Bed & Breakfast in Hastings had stated that a bad review on Tripadvisor had led to them losing a significant amount trade.

Now there are two points to be made here:

1. It is very sad that any business should be so affected by one bad review.

2. To read single reviews is entirely missing the point of Tripadvisor - you need to look at trends.

If you have ever spent time on the website you will know as a reasonable person (for Dear Reader you must be a reasonable person if you are reading this) that you get some absolute idiots writing reviews.

People for whom the slightest thing (often nothing to do with the hotel, activity etc.) results in them giving a 1 star review - usually with a two page diatribe attached.

The whole point is that you should IGNORE these reviews - just like you should ignore the very very best ones as there is always a nagging feeling that these have been written by the proprietor.

My view is look at the average - and if the average is good then trust it.

I must confess I do have my own set of rules when it comes to giving credence to reviews:

1. Who wrote the review? Are they European or American? -  I have a personal rule of thumb that if the author is from the US (worst of all if they have never appeared to travel out of their own state) and their review is a rant about poor reception of HBO or something similar then ignore it. Simply put our expectations are different. I stayed in a fantastic boutique hotel in Chicago on the top floor of a skyscraper which was absolutely castigated in some reviews by this type of people because you had to take 2 elevators to get to reception.

2. Has the reviewer uploaded photos? If yes, are the photos in focus? - clearly if someone can't even manage to upload a clear picture without assistance would you trust them for their opinion on a week long vacation?

3. But if photos are uploaded do you look like the reviewer (or at least share some affinity)? If the reviewer appears to be Snoop Dogg or Mother Teresa chances are their life experiences, and therefore expectations, are not going to be the same as yours. I always trust the reviews of fat, middle aged men with three kids on hand on the basis that they are bound to share my own low standards.

Tripadvisor is an amazing tool which really hasn't led me wrong yet. Every time I have used it, obviously following the above rules, I have had a great trip.

I'm already planning my next holiday to Florida using Tripadvisor and I really can't wait. Gatorland really is better than Disney? Right?

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