I have partnered with TripAdvisor for a few years and showed their reviews here on AllStays.com. That relationship has now ended so I am removing any remaining reviews from them on this website. I would love to add reviews to this site where I know they are real but I see no point in providing false feel good information. As a disclaimer, I did get paid for pointing to TripAdvisor reviews good and bad, so I am losing that income. They can't be trusted any longer for the honest information that I would like to present. Others are coming out on this subject as well, such as Beat of Hawaii and Arthur Frommer .
Relying on those reviews has caused a problem in dealing with complaints of fake reviews and the manipulation of those reviews. I tried to have an index on the site and would see an overwhelming majority of the reviews positive or negative over a long period of time. Then I would check the status again a few months and it would change dramatically to the opposite extreme. Positive to bad, negative to positive and the old reviews were gone for whatever reason. Was it a clean up or is the new data tainted? Who knows but it's no longer reliable.
I have had people copy my own writings (or paid staff writings) on this site and post it on TripAdvisor as their own on several occasions. Nothing is done about it. I get a rude reply saying that I should have written for their site to begin with or asking why I would write it anyplace else? Duh.
Over the years, I have submitted a few personal reviews to TripAdvisor. My personal experience was that for chains and big hotels, my critical ones were ignored as not meeting their criteria. The positives were published. For the cheaper motels and independents, they published the negatives.
TripAdvisor is part of a big huge corporation now so little things don't matter any more. Because they are owned by Expedia, a travel website, there is a conflict of interest in being non-biased as well. Are you going to take money from an advertiser and then let them get slammed? Are you going to treat the chains that pay you more money better than someone who pays you less or nothing at all? I have seen many times now where a long running poorly reviewed hotel takes a new brand name. I've only seen this with chains by the way. The bad reviews disappear! Did everything thing change with just a new name? Maybe it did improve but that should show up over time, not overnight.
I have had hotels threaten me because I am pointing to bad reviews. As a third party, I try to stay out of it but then the bad reviews are usually removed if the stink gets bad enough. Were they false bad reviews? Or were they just removed which then taints the point of having reviews of that property listed at all.
Hotels are blackmailed all the time by guests who threaten to write bad reviews on TripAdvisor.
TripAdvisor added their own alerts about reviews. To their credit, at least they are doing this to let you know of the problem. But it also basically says the site is worthless compared to when it first started.
“TripAdvisor has reasonable cause to believe that either this property or individuals associated with the property may have attempted to manipulate our popularity index by interfering with the unbiased nature of our reviews. Please take this into consideration when researching your travel plans.”
Well what is the point in the end? We want to be able to read and trust reviews but it is not easy. They are skewed by employees writing negatives on the competition. Disgruntled employees write about their own place. Owner try to bump up their own ratings. It is the most common industry question, “How can I bump up my hotels rating on TripAdvisor?”
Because reviews are anonymous, they can never be truly accurate. You or I can write about any hotel and get it on there, good or bad.
No one is perfect. There are good and bad aspects about just about all the guide books and ratings. Most of us have probably heard about the person writing Lonely Planet books without visiting the places. Some guide books are written like you think the pleasant chap on the cover was actually there when it was actually a hired local guide doing the evaluation. This means the recommendations become more inconsistent as the brand owner becomes more rich. You may ask what I have “how can the same person that raved about this place like this one?”
TripAdvisor needs to drop their slogan. “Get the truth. Then Go.” It's not truth, it's more like an innuendo or a rumor. Maybe it could be “Get the rumours and decide for yourself.”
There is no clear answer or recommendation. In the end you have to use your own judgement. It would be better if TripAdvisor or any leading review website was independent and not owned by a company that makes all it's money off from travel bookings.
If you use TripAdvisor, try to look at the overall numbers of a property. Throw out the worst and the best reviews and take the stuff in the middle as a consensus. That's all you can do for now. The people skewing it will do that as well however, if they haven't already. They will start doing “pleasant” reviews that don't go overboard but still encourage you that the place is okay to visit.
Certain brands are fairly safe choices but even a good hotel can have one employee that ruins the whole experience. Where this really hurts is with the smaller independents. You have nothing to reply upon other than the impression you get with photos, location and presentation on their website. That's one reason I do what no corporate site does and send people directly to official website. You can get a bit of a feel for it.
What do you think about the state of reviews online these days? How do you use the various review services out there?