/ Travel & Leisure

Can you rely on Tripadvisor reviews?

Keyboard in the sand

Tripadvisor has been in the press a lot lately – and not always for the right reasons. Now the company is responding with a new ‘people like me’ function to filter out reviews that aren’t relevant to you. Will it work?

I’m not entirely convinced by the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ and prefer to get views from people I know, or from acknowledged experts in the field.

So I’ve never been a massive fan of travel review sites like Tripadvisor. Although they might offer thousands of views, they don’t necessarily come from anyone I trust.

But I might be forced to think again after one of several announcements from the site made this week at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London – where Tripadvisor spoke at one of the busiest sessions.

Filter out irrelevant reviews

The site is launching a ‘people like me’ function that will allow us to filter the reviews so we see only the ones from people that reflect our interests.

How far this goes is unclear. You can certainly restrict the search to bring up results only from – for example – people with young families. But will I be able to specify people with young families who like holiday parks in rural parts of France?

Will I be able to narrow it even further to say I want reviews only from people who share my taste in music and think it’s important to use apostrophes correctly? Will I be able to screen out reviews from people whose main aim on holiday is to find something to complain about on Tripadvisor?

The more narrow I can make the search the better, as far as I’m concerned – not least because the narrower it becomes the less chance there should be of encountering a review posted by a serial complainer, or by a competitor of the establishment being reviewed.

How reliable are reviews?

Tripadvisor’s appearances at WTM followed a Channel 4 television documentary featuring hoteliers who had been the victim of what they saw as unfair reviews, as well as some enthusiastic (possibly over enthusiastic) Tripadvisor contributors.

The company chose WTM to tackle the issue, announcing it was launching a ‘customer care’ division to handle calls from people who wanted to complain about reviews on the site. Aimed at owners and managers who feel they’ve been unfairly treated on the site, the move is designed to emphasise its commitment to ensuring only genuine reviews appear.

The WTM audience was also told there are around 25 filters on the site – including checks of reviewer’s IP addresses – designed to screen out fake reviews before publication.

Yet the same week, the Advertising Standards Authority received a fresh complaint about Tripadvisor. Reputation management company Kwikchex is claiming that travel companies are using Tripadvisor reviews on their own sites without verifying the identity of the author – which it claims breaches advertising rules.

So the concern about the accuracy and motivation of Tripadvisor reviews is not going to go away. But once we can narrow the searches to a few select people, we should be more able to screen out the dodgy reviews.

Though if I get too enthusiastic about narrowing the search, I suppose I might be reading only reviews I posted myself.

Mikhail says:
10 November 2011

No no and no again we can’t trus this website. I had only a negative experience with their “top” recommendations. I will never trust them again.


I have always used trip before going on holiday and I must say the reports to date have been very good likewise I have submitted a few myself and given my honest opinion in the hope that fellow travellers would benefit from my experiences. I have been very fortunate that all the hotels have been of good standard(not 5 star)tho some deserve 5 stars with only one not quite so good and even then it was spotless and the food was good just the bells from the church ringing every morning at 7am (about 30 times) was the problem.So I can only say keep up the good work “trip” you will always get the bad apple


One woman’s brilliant holiday is another woman’s nightmare.


TripAdviser is by no means perfect but what alternatives are there ?

A bit of common-sense – being wary of extreme reviews, reviews by people with only 1 or 2 reviews to their name, ignoring reviews more than a few months old and being wary of places who are in top ranks but with only a few reviews – will give you a far better idea of a place.

Any self-selected review group it will tend to attract the disgruntled and the very enthusiastic and Tripadviser is not immune from this distortion.
Of course if more people posted about their “average” or “nothing wrong” experiences they would help produce a more balanced result

vicki says:
11 November 2011

I do use trip reviews to aid my decision making process.I admit to being a bit anal in my research before parting with my cash. Last weekend I used their reviews to book a weekend away, choosing the 2nd most popular B+B (not liking the proprietor of the 1st on the phone) and was not dissapointed. It was everything it was cracked up to be and maybe even a bit better. I felt that having watched the C4 documentary, the owners concerned did irrepairable damage to their business with their attitude, although some of the reviewers were power mad and needed to get a life!

Polly says:
11 November 2011

I use TripAdviser and post on it a lot. Never been disappointed yet but you do need to treat it with care. Look for reviews that are balanced – few places are totally brilliant or dreadful, cross check against other sites, and lookout for the obvious posts by friends or rivals. Use caution over people who only post once, and check out reviews of regular reviewers – are they happy or discontented with everywhere? And do look at the cost of a hotel – a brilliant hostel won’t suit somone looking for 5* luxury and vice versa.


I am trying to remember HOW I booked B & Bs / hotels before the internet, but I managed it. Probably a list from a tourist board then I would book one (no looking up of reviews – no checking). I remember staying in dreadful places. I now use the internet, trip advisor and other review sites. I think TA is great- as I have stayed in amazing places I would not have chosen without reviews. Those with excellent reviews deserve them- I have never been disappointed. I now would not take a risk staying in a place with mainly poor or mediocre reviews. I have only left excellent reviews on TA- if I have a complaint, I take it up directly with the owners as I think they have a right to be able to handle this privately with me – and not have it broadcast across the world. I treat hotel and B & B owners in the way I would like to be treated myself.

betty says:
12 November 2011

After watching the documentary I could certainly see both sides of the story, with some of the ‘visitors’ being over fussy, pinickity and bullying. OCD or what? However I could also see some of the owners as ‘exactly what was said about them on trip advisor’ and it is hard for many of us to take even constructive critisism – it was also the way they were reading the reviews – over reacting to minute comments. After all the owners of the hotels etc have the right to reply – and when they did in this instance that reply also showed them up for what they were – rude, arrogant and condescending. I have relied on trip advisor ever since I had a bad experience at a hotel in Madeira, when I came home I looked on trip advisor and found that everything I had experienced was clearly on there. Since then I always look before I book but do not take every critisism as ‘fact’ after all its only one persons personal opinion. I looked at one hotel in Jersey, there was an awful review from one person, however the owner had then answered the reviewer giving the full details of what had occurred. I still booked the holiday and had a lovely time. So, I think we all have to use discretion and common sense. I think filtering everything down is ludicrous – leave it as it is, but perhaps look at these people, as were shown on TV, that visit multiple venues, perceiving themselves as ‘undercover journalists’. There certainly is concern that some, one shown on TV, are doing it to get their own back on something or someone in their childhood, or to feel powerful, but they should never be allowed to become so powerful that they destroy someone else’s life and income. How would they like it if someone came to their workplace and pulled holes in everything they did. Sad.


Obviously we cannot trust it completely. Anyone who thinks we can is clearly more than a little odd.

But that does not mean it isn’t helpful. I’m going to Spain next we