Customer reviews are now seen as one of the most important factors when booking holiday accommodation, and rightly so. However, TripAdvisor which is viewed as the godfather of all review websites, it is definitely not quite all it appears to be.
TripAdvisor reviews can make or break a hotel or private holiday rental. One bad review sticks out like a sore thumb, even in a sea of good reviews. So it is worrying that in the last few months alone we have been approached by ‘organisations’ asking if we would like them to write fake reviews on TripAdvisor for several of our properties in return for a sum of money. Whist we would never dream of doing this, who knows how many other hotel or villa owners would take them up on the offer?
This is not the only concern when it comes to the reliability of TripAdvisor reviews. Many hotel, restaurant and villa owners are now incentivising guests to leave them good reviews with the promise of getting money off their next holiday or meal. Whilst this is not illegal it does make you wonder just how legitimate reviews actually are. While TripAdvisor state that it is ‘against their guidelines’ to offer incentives or discounts based on good reviews, it would be almost impossible to police this with the millions of reviews they have left on the site each year.
In a recent interview with The Telegraph TV broadcaster Kate Humble explained that she never uses review sites after seeing how unfairly a property she had stayed in (and enjoyed greatly) had been reviewed on TripAdvisor, virtually ruining the B&B owners business. (On review sites) she said “I don’t use them; I just think you can’t rely on them. I still use guidebooks in a very old fashioned way, and obviously word-of-mouth is the finest way of getting information. And sometimes, what the hell – take a punt on something.
“Some people think it’s a good bit of sport to be nasty on the internet. It’s almost like everyone wants to be AA Gill and they think that being unpleasant gets them read.”
It’s a double edged sword as hotel and villa owners are trying to bribe customers for good reviews and disgruntled, or simply miserable, reviewers are setting out in an attempt to get compensation or ruin businesses as a result of bad reviews. The question is who do you believe?
Some of the larger rental sites that are part of the Holiday Lettings group are now linked to TripAdvisor so they are also open to these problems. In contrast, the reviews left on our website are only taken from customers we know have stayed in our properties. The feedback is sent to property owners to allow them to act on any concerns, and we also keep a record of all reviews so that we can make sure that standards are maintained in our properties and that our holidaymakers are happy.
There is no doubt about it, reviews can be helpful. You are much more likely to make a purchase if a trusted friend has told you that the thing you are buying is fantastic. In the ‘old days’ word of mouth was used to get good (or bed reviews) out there. However, with social media platforms and review sites such as TripAdvisor now being the popular way of telling people what you think about your last holiday or meal out, there really is no way of knowing what the person reviewing is like or what their motives are.
Maybe you should just go back to talking to your friends to see what they think, or better still trusting your own instincts!