/ 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.

moe aslam says:
25 May 2014

Fairness is expected in every business. The question is, “Is Trip advisor an innocent third party, posting honest independent reviews or a Money Making Business”. My observation has been; it is nothing but a money making business, it is up for sale and anyone who has money, can buy it.
In simple terms, if you subscribe to their BUSINESS membership; and that is not cheap – it costs US$1500, at least that is how much it cost when I cancelled it, a few years ago, it may be more now.
In return what you get is, only the positive reviews are on the top, your star ratings go very high based on current year reviews only, everything will look great. They are bought and sold just like any other commodity.
Now if you don’t subscribe to business membership, and don’t pay the dues then they use the same pressure, what the old used car salesmen did. Bring the worst reviews on the top, even the ones that may be from a very long time. You star ratings will go down. They even hired a specialist to pull the worst parts for all negative reviews, very neatly summarise them as his personal observations and put the total package right on top of the reviews.
Now if that isn’t black mail, what is?
Its dirty old marketing, that’s all. They provide a platform to allow the people to steam out, and we all know that, 99% of them are simple grudges, personal vendetta, and sometime just a little man’s blackmail.
I am talking from personal experience, to gain an advantage on pricing; they will say right to your face, “if you don’t do this, I will make sure your name is in dirt – all over the internet. Or to avoid paying for a room, after an overnight stay; a bleach dis-coloured spot on the bed sheet turns into a spot of feces

Very interesting Moe. I do use Trip Advisoe for want of something better. I have suggested to Which? that with 600,000 members and with people with vefifiable names that Which Travels could become more useful. Unforunately this idea has not gone anywhere.

I do see that Travel Which? are asking for 8 people for a two hour session in London to talk about travel. I would love to see a transcript! : )

David says:
23 February 2015

I find it generally ok. Obviously people’s standards differ but there is generally a strength in numbers, particularly bad reviews. Two issues however. I had a terrible meal at a restaurant once and told the truth about it. Tripadvisor allowed a riposte by the owner, which was a pack of lies and I was branded a trouble-maker! The second issue is regarding local reviews of restaurants. The restaurant I rate the best locally is now always 2nd or 3rd in the table. It always used to be first. It has been supplanted by 2 curry restaurants that now have masses on reviews by people who have only ever posted one review: their review of the curry restaurant. I suspect fake reviews by staff/family/friends. So like with any statistic be wary.

jeronimo says:
21 March 2015

I have been a regular contributor to TP for many years until recently, i left a comment about a well known chain of hotels pointing out that the service was horrendous ,the food was terrible ,and the rooms were awful ,i did go into detail why but their faults were too many to mention, i also pointed out that i was surprised that so many people found no fault at all and also to my surprise the comments were from first time trip advisor members who use the hotel as a stay over for flights to their holiday but strangely they never made any comment about their holiday hotels. I received an email from tripadvisor telling me i was abusive and they removed my post. i have visited hotels all over the world and have written good and bad reviews and have never been abusive , i ask them to explain exactly where i had been abusive ,6 months later still no reply . i for one will never use or trust TA again.