TripAdvisor: The New Bully on the Travel Information Block?

All over the world, hoteliers are paying to be part of the TripAdvisor universe. Here, friends in Venice proudly show off their TripAdvisor certificate.

In my last few years of European guidebook research, it’s increasingly impossible to ignore a new power on the block: TripAdvisor. Many guidebook mainstays have faded, and now small hotels and restaurants can be made or broken by their TripAdvisor rankings. While I am still committed to finding, evaluating, and listing the best hotels for my travelers in Europe, I expect that in the future, fewer people will rely on guidebook listings for their hotels and more will use online services.

I never even visited until a few months ago. Considering the power it wields over so many of my hotel and restaurant friends in Europe, I was curious. It is, admittedly, an impressive collection of reviews from travelers. But anyone can submit feedback, and my hunch is that a significant percentage of them are by friends of enemies of the place being reviewed. I find more and more small hotels offering a free breakfast to people who promise to write kindly about them on TripAdvisor. Conversely, several hoteliers have told me that occasionally guests threaten them with a bad review unless the hotel gives them a deep discount.

I also have serious doubts about TripAdvisor’s restaurant rankings, which reflect the tastes of tourist reviewers rather than local foodies — and therefore skew toward glitzy, obvious places rather than good-value, authentic, hidden alternatives. (If you’re not convinced, see how your favorite restaurants in your hometown stack up on TripAdvisor.)

While it can be helpful to look over TripAdvisor’s hotel and restaurant listings, I wouldn’t rely on them blindly. On the other hand, I’ve found the most helpful categories are those listing tours, sightseeing experiences, and entertainment. When in Salzburg, I clicked around the TripAdvisor reviews to survey the many little outfits doing Sound of Music tours. And from TripAdvisor, I learned that the big shot who owns Red Bull (the energy drink) has an ego-boosting space at the Salzburg Airport (called “Hangar-7”) where he displays his hot cars and fancy personal airplanes, viewable by the public for free.

For me, the most interesting dimension is the huge impact TripAdvisor and other Web booking services are having on hotels all around the world. Hoteliers in Europe have told me they see all marketing these days as two branches: publicity (traditional ads) and recommendation (TripAdvisor). They know that a good TripAdvisor ranking can make their business — and a few bad reviews can sink them. They’re awed and terrified by the power of this one website.

As “recommendation marketing” becomes the dominant force, powers in that arena are jockeying for position. The rise of TripAdvisor goes hand-in-hand with the new power of booking services like,,, and All of these services pay to have a link on TripAdvisor. That way, when people search hotels on TripAdvisor, they simply click through to reserve — not directly with the hotel, but through the booking agency (which the hotel must pay a commission).

If you own a small hotel needing to rent rooms via the Internet, you now feel like things are out of your control. To be listed by any of these services, hotels are pressured to pay fees, additional fees for good placement and photos, plus even more fees to allow travelers to book rooms directly. A “parity clause” requires hotels not to advertise or sell rooms for less than the price promoted on these booking sites. While a few hotels refuse to be controlled by online booking services (and don’t play the Internet booking service game), most find it’s the only way to stay in business.

I’ve talked to hoteliers who are trying to migrate to Facebook, where they can sell rooms outside of the booking-site commission racket. To get around the “parity clause,” they are creating clubs where members can get “fan rates.” Even if this works for them now, the hotels fear that Facebook is just waiting for them to do the hard innovation work…and then Facebook will come in, co-opt the business, and extort their own charges and fees. (By the way, Europeans trying to get into the social media swing find Facebook viable for reaching American adults, while it attracts a younger clientele in Europe.)

Now Google is getting into the mix and positioning itself to be the default way to book a room. Hotels report that Google is dropping by to film 360-degree views of their places. European hoteliers told me they worry that Google may soon threaten to make everyone play by its rules for placement in searches.

In short, European hoteliers tell me that if you’re an investor, pull out of TripAdvisor and invest in Google and Facebook. That’s where they predict the next power will reside.

So, in a nutshell, as a community of travelers, we are enjoying new recommendation and booking services — but, whether hotels like it or not, we are all paying 20 percent more than before for our accommodations. This money is not going to the hotels, but to Internet companies.

What’s your take on Trip Advisor as a source of information for your European travels? Have you enjoyed good experiences through TripAdvisor, or do you find the rankings biased? When you book a hotel, what do you find the best method?


46 Replies to “TripAdvisor: The New Bully on the Travel Information Block?”

  1. Sounds like what Robert Parker of the Wine Advocate is to the wine trade around the world. I’ve used TripAdvisor and generally have had OK results, although I agree with the premise that you can’t totally trust the reviews.

  2. Except for the fact that I diligently rate hotels and restaurants, and have also rated those within RS’s pantheon, I am far from an expert. I only know what appeals to me as a US and world wide traveler. But TripAdvisor has proven to me that it is reliable overall. I agree with most of the TripAdviser reviews and I can often “smell” when a review is written by an establishment owner’s mother. Again, travel is a business. There are alliances and allegiances among all companies. My personal experience is that TripAdvisor is overall highly reliable. P.S. to R.S. I am not a relative or in a business relationship of any kind with TripAdvisor. As for European hoteliers saying do this or that, I would no more believe that than I would a recommendation from Goldman Sachs.

  3. I too am a diligent rater who believes a review should reflect the experience you had and nothing more. I have also become quite adroit at picking out ratings that are more in line with what Rick alluded to. These obliviously bogus ratings are easy to ignore and should be by all users.

  4. Sometimes it seems like the more information available, the harder it is to book rooms. I do use Trip Advisor for the hotel guest reviews, but usually disregard the worst and best reviews, and take the rest for what they are worth. It is just one of the tools I use to minimize guesswork when booking places for my family to stay while traveling. And there are times when we book accommodation blind and hope for the best. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. It is all part of the travel adventure.

  5. You really need to take the Trip Advisor site with a healthy dose of skepticism. When I see Olive Garden as the top Italian restaurant….. Really? I make the analogy to the “Best Of” editions published by many local print media. It is often skewed towards what I would label a “Nepotistic” reviewer. One still needs to do there homework and in my opinion (I have used them all: Fodor’s, Frommer’s, LP) Rick’s guidebooks are hands down the best. Combine the guidebook with online resources like Trip Advisor, but do your due diligence. Another useful tool is Google’s street view, which allows you to drill down into the neighbor, landmarks, distances, etc. It never ceases to amaze me how little research some travelers conduct in light of the amount of money they are spending.

  6. I am a very frequent user and reviewer on TripAdvisor. Like a previous poster, I too am pretty adept at sniffing out the bogus reviews. In addition, I try and pay close attention to what the review is saying about what they like and don’t like about a particular establishment. I like to cross check with Rick’s recommendations, TripAdvisor, and Frommer’s to see what everyone says about an establishment. It’s a pretty fail-safe system that has served us well on our European adventures. I most like TripAdvisor, though, for our American escapades.

  7. I read numerous review sites and try to find a consensus. I usually rely on booking sites, to make reservations. One power that hotels still have is how to place customers that have booked directly versus online sites. I’ve got the feeling over the years that hotels give customers who booked directly slightly better room options. And those booking with an online site that have to use, but don’t like may stick the customer in one of the worst rooms.

  8. It may be premature but I think RS, and more realistically, his thirty- nine- year old marketing types, may have learned something already. REAL customers don’t feed back what merchants like to read or hear. Certainly, blend the reviews of a variety of sites and opinions. Then scratch out those that might have something to gain _ _ _ _. _ _ _ _ _. When Rick really skews his comments to what is best for the customer, as he once did, then you have found a traveler advisor you can count upon.

    You, dear customer, fill in the blanks.

  9. I’m a regular on the TA Paris board and it’s funny that RS hadn’t even gone on TA until a few months ago – the mere mention of RS can often ignite a “flame-war” amongst the posters….. Many Europeans on the TA boards are ignorant of who Rick is until the subject comes up.

    Ironically, one of the biggest “problems” many people on the TA Paris board have with Rick is the enormous impact he has on American travelers – that once Rick posts about a place in his books, it’s overrun w/ Americans with their noses stuck firmly in their “little blue book”…… I think Rick himself has expressed some concern about this in his relatively recent posts about the Cinque Terra and places in Germany…… These places stop being “Back Door’s” and start becoming the very thing Rick tries to encourage us to avoid….. He can’t win for losing……..

    On the Paris board (and on a splinter group board) I know most of the regulars and can pick out what good advice is and who is a troll…… I typically don’t even use the review boards on TA, although I have written a few reviews about places I have actually been to, and usually post photos I take to support my review.

    Anyway, I like TA, I have made a few “friends” there, I know who to trust, and who to ignore…….. They’ve helped my travel planning immensely, although I usually buy the latest RS book for each trip to provide basic information – I typically do my own planning nowadays w/ input from trusted “friends” on TA…….

    I still book my hotels directly, don’t use Google, FB, Travelocity or any of the other booking “engines”….. I prefer to deal with hotels myself. As for restaurants – I usually get better advice from the locals on TA about which places are a good value and which places are overrated or touristy.

  10. I have been using TA for several years exactly the way you suggest-for tours, entertainment, sightseeing ideas, and other tour related experiences, but I have to admit I have never used the site to find hotel or restaurant recommendations. I use the Forum feature for information posted by DEs and travelers for each city I visit and find it to be a helpful resource. I think it’s a nice supplement to your tour books when used for this purpose. We have had some great experiences due to information gleaned from the Forum postings. I can’t speak to using it for food and bed recommendations although I would agree with the other posters who say you throw out the top and bottom recs and find the truth somewhere in between.

  11. My daughter and I went to Greece in September and used TripAdvisor ratings to book hotels. (We stayed at the less expensive hotels, and did look at the Helpline on, but they didn’t address hotels where we were going by and large.) Overall, we found the narrative comments to be accurate and, often informative, e.g., the distance from where tourists usually go. We met some wonderful hoteliers. I am of two minds. While we found it useful, I would be heartbroken if the hotels we stayed at were blackmailed by TripAdvisor into doing something that was not in their best interest.

  12. I feel Rick has the right take on TripAdvisor. I also agree with Jeff. I have posted questions on TA that I wanted help with & found the comments I got back very helpful. I perused comments when I was looking for an apartment in a particular district to rent in Paris a few yrs ago & found some helpful info on several matters helpful in my planning stages. I would take any restaurant reviews with a grain of salt. That is a very cutthroat business

  13. I am one of two destination experts for a small mid-western city. We don’t get a lot of postings, but when we do either one of us answers the question as best we can. Also, there’s a nice small group of people who chime in. I just double-checked to see what the top rated restaurants were and they include what I would consider the best restaurant in town.

    I use the forums a lot. For the most part these are local people who know the ins and outs of their town or city. I think that the forum often reflects the characteristics of the city itself. Check out the NYC forum someday and you’ll see what I mean! It’s a great place, but no one holds back on an opinion. NYWhiz is amazing as is Brooklynmel.

    As many have said, you learn how to read the reviews. Look for the one post wonders. Throw out the best and the worst. And then ask on the forum about the one you want to try. I think that it’s a great resource.

  14. Okay I agree with a lot of you guys above. I also like Trip Advisor and have used it for the last 7 years in helping me to plan the hotels to stay in while in Europe. I do enjoy reading the reviews, but I also agree, you have to take it with a grain of salt. The really bad ones usually happen because something happen to the person at the hotel that wasn’t to his/her liking. Now, this will happen, but when you see other reviews where they are good or reasonable and then see the glaring bad review, then I wonder if this is really true. You have to look at the whole picture.
    Now, the other thing is, that I also use Rick Steve’s books or travel graffiti or advisors on his web site, and compare this to TA,, and other sites to see what others have said about the hotel.
    I book directly with the on site web site of the particular hotel and never through orbitz, traveloity or other web sites. Now if they don’t have their own web site, then I sometimes will look for another hotel or contact them by email, if I have it.
    In any case, I do like TA and it does help me in some of my decisions. Last year when I went to Eindhoven NL, Lucerne Switzerland, Hall in Tirol Austria, Nuremburg Germany , Metz France, Frankfurt (downtown) Germany, it was very useful.

  15. I definitely think Trip Advisor is biased. I have written four reviews–three very positive regarding accommodations in France and Italy. I was in Italy for a month in September and stayed at a hotel in Varenna (one not listed in Rick Steves). The proprietor was rude and intimidating. She accused us of destroying her wall thermostat and told us we would pay. I wrote a comment on Trip Advisor with information regarding the way we were treated. Trip Advisor refused to print it saying that they did not feel the comments were “helpful.” I intend to re-write my post and submit it again. If it is still denied, there will be no need for me to look at Trip Advisor again.

  16. I have used Trip Advisor, Travellerspoint (a travel community website), and guidebooks to find accomodations in various cities. I found that TA was reliable. In fact, I have heard from friends, family, collegues, etc good things about TA. I wouldn’t bash it. Obviously, if all of the reviews are that the hotel has rodents, mold, and bed bugs, and then one glowing one, you know that it’s a dud. It’s common sense. However, as Rick was saying, it takes a lot of work to get from bad reviews to good reviews if you are trying to clean up your hotel, so you have to watch for the reviews slowly getting better, then you can ignore the old ones reporting vermin.

    I always read all of the reviews. If there are two reviews, I may not stay there because it is impossible to tell if the place is good or bad. If there are tons of reviews, then you use your own good judgement. If anyone posts anything that is really, really bad, like there are bed bugs, for example, I avoid the hotel- unless it looks like the place cleaned up their act. The reviews tell a story. You can see what has gone on at the hotel over time by reading the reviews.

    A good way to find accomodations is through the many travel forums on the internet. I believe that Rick has one, though I have never used it. Others are Bootsnall, Lonely Planet Thorn Tree, the afrorementioned Travellerspoint, Frommers, maybe Let’s Go, some Aussie sites (which I can’t rememeber), and so on. The only problem is that some forum sites have stopped allowing accom. questions because they are branching out into TA-like “services” such as what TP is now doing. But there is nothing like advice from a local, so I use these sites a lot for travel. They give you advice from cultural questions to sightseeing recommendations to itinerary and packing advice to everything in between and beyond. They are, in a word, indespensable.

  17. Rick I hope you think twice about ending your hotel recomendations. I find that when I book a hotel other than Europe, I will go check it out on Trip Advisor and it does nothing more than cause me extreme anxiety. There are so many good and really bad reviews. I just want to know my five choices and what makes them good and their qualities. Just like blogs you get the disgruntled peeson that would not be happy with anything done or said.

  18. For us, TA has been a great supplement/complement to Rick’s books. We have used TA to choose hotels quite a few times in Europe and the US–always at one that is rated in the top few–and have never been disappointed. For example, we stayed at a 4* hotel in Madrid that was also listed in the RS Spain book, and loved it. We stayed at another very highly rated TA 4* hotel in Barcelona on the Ramblas that wasn’t in Rick’s book that was also wonderful. Bottom-line–if you’re willing to spend the time on TA sifting through the reviews, it’s worth it, since no paper guidebook can include everything. However, we almost always contact the hotel directly to book, as the best price is generally (but not always) obtained direct.

  19. When choosing Hotels in Europe, my primary resource is ETBD Guidebooks, as I’ve found the information to be accurate and the Hotels to be good. However I often have a glance at the Trip Advisor ratings just to get another perspective. When booking Hotels, I deal directly with the Hotel when possible rather than using a “booking engine”. I’ve found that some Hotels use or similar, so using booking sites is unavoidable at times.
    I’m not always sure of the impartiality of reviews on Trip Advisor, so don’t place too much emphasis on them. I’ve seen more than a few that were “questionable”. There’s also the aspect of reviews being “filtered” by Trip Advisor.
    In order to maintain profit margins, I wonder how many Hotels will increase rates to compensate for the payments to booking sites. The smaller operations will be affected by this more than the large chains.

  20. You are worried about tourists going to “obvious places”?

    These would be the Americans wandering up and down Rue Cler clutching their ETBD books then?

  21. Maybe TripAdvisor has become more competent since I closed my account on there, but at least as of a couple of years ago, they were apparently unable to cope with the fact that I moved to a different state. Despite exploring every avenue I could, including contacting TA directly, I was advised that I couldn’t prevent all the ‘cheap flight’ offers from my former ‘home’ airport, now conveniently located a mere 750 miles away.

    After exhausting all avenues, I gave up, and just set any and all addresses including ‘’ to bounce at my mail server. The few times I used their site, the reviews seemed basically accurate (maybe I just got lucky with where I stayed!) but speaking as a retired database programmer, I have zero regard for TripAdvisor’s technical competence. Maybe their system has improved by now, but I’ll not be rejoining.

  22. Though no travel guide is perfect, I’ve found Tripadvisor to be very helpful in planning trips around the world. It seems to me that Mr. Steves just doesn’t like the competition.

  23. Tripadvisor has been one of the most easiest and reliable information portal for travelers. I believe the reviews are most of the time ethical and legit. Thanks

  24. We recently returned from a trip to Germany, Austria and ended with a few days in Amsterdam. Since we had a year to plan the trip, we were able to take our time and use all the tools (print and online) available to us. We used Trip Advisor a great deal. When we found a hotel that looked promising, we always searched out the hotel’s own website and booked there, rather than booking through a link on Trip Advisor. This a an easy way around this issue. In one case, at the Gerberhaus Hotel in Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber in Germany, the owner thanked us for booking directly on her website, as it saves her money… and she gave us a little discount! Also, the hotel’s own website sometimes gives you a little better insight into the property and the surrounding area than a Trip Advisor listing might.

  25. I have found TA at least domestically to be very accurate. You throw out the cranks that complain that the valet didn’t smile or the pool waitress was slow and focus on the comments about cleanliness / noise and such. Also a great feature are the pics uploaded by regular travelers can bounce them off the polished pro photos and see just what that pool looks like ….that type of thing

  26. I have used in travel through the South. I have seen pretty accurate –given the differences in taste between individual travelling styles (I am a cheapie) for Accommodation quality, tours, and museums. Not so good for Restaurants and outdoor activities. I find the photos very useful.

  27. I use TA as a suplement to RS books, along with other travel site reviews. I like the fact that they allow guests to post ‘actual’ pictures, rather than the ‘pristine’ pics posted by the establishment.

  28. Personally, I think TA is best as a source for logistical information. I don’t pay attention to any reviews there as they are not vetted but I also don’t read your recommendations either as when I did, way way back when, I was unhappy with the places I chose based on your suggestions.

    I do read reviews on and as those are submitted by people who have been confirmed to have stayed at the property. I look for just a few key issues – the main one being inside noise to which I am ultra sensitive. If I read a number of people saying the walls are paper thin, they could people in the next room or their tvs, I look for somewhere else.

    Same thing with restaurant recommendations – all subjective. When I travel, I go to places that have been recommended to me by people I know or I just follow my nose and chose my own spots in which to dine.

    If people want to rely solely on these types of reviews, they are bound to be exploited and manipulated. Ultimately, people may just realize it is likely a bunch of hooey and go back to traveling the way we did pre-internet.

    I feel badly for businesses (hotels, restaurants, etc) who have had their businesses hurt by vicious reviews – especially if the reviews are bought and paid for.

    I have been asked to submit reviews to TA after staying somewhere or eating somewhere; I decline.

    You refer to yourself as a travel journalist but you have a huge investment in your business and books/tours so, frankly, you are not the source I would take into account on this issue if I was inclined to take anyone’s opinion at all.

    No offense meant; it is what it is. I’ve never done research to see if forums like TA have cut into the profits of guidebook companies – but, I think I will just out of curiousity.

  29. For me, the greatest fun is planning the journey through your books Steve, I’ve used your books for over 15 years for European travel, your hotel recommendations are always spot on, the rates fair and descriptions are accurate and vivid, i.e., the woman who manages the Hotel Olivedo in Varenna, Italy! Thanks Rick and your staff.

  30. The only logical conclusion: Rick, you must start a site where people can review places they’ve tried. You are big enough to model ethical practice in this process. If you had a site like TA, I would put my reviews on it, but for now TA seems the best place for them. I only review places I have personally experienced and I tell the truth. In return, TA gives me feedback and encouragement, so I write more reviews. I think I can tell something about a place by reading several reviews, and also checking out the photos people submit. So far, it has worked pretty well. I also read your guides. My TA name is travelersSC.

  31. I search various sites and books for accommodation ideas, including Rick’s books and site, of course. The RS discussions can be quite helpful. I use TA for checking out reviews. I do what someone else has mentioned – I throw out the best and worst review then study reviews starting with the most recent and working back. I always contact my potential accommodation directly through email or phone. This has worked out quite well for me. I have been offered cuts in rates by calling directly. I have posted on TA with reviews. Luckily, this method has led to extremely good to satisfactory stays wherever we have traveled. Thanks to Rick for all you do!

  32. I started a thread on the TA Paris board about Rick’s blog……. pretty interesting discussion for a few pages, but currently, it’s getting a little snarky….. not quite a flame-war yet, but a vast array of opinions on Rick and his “Rickniks”….. It’s kind of funny anyway…..

  33. I refuse to post reviews to TripAdvisor because they censor reviews to remove references to the property’s own website without disclosing to the reader that the review has been edited or tampered with. For instance, I’d say “the website is misleading because of their 20 rooms they show the one unique room that’s twice the size of the others and rented at a premium cost as if it were typical of the other nineteen…” and this would become “the motel’s website is misleading…” but with the name of the offending domain magically removed. I also see TripAdvisor as taking ownership (ie: copyright and editorial control) of my content for themselves – unlike sites such as Wikipedia where the author still owns the copyright and has at least a bit of ability edit a post later if the underlying facts change in some manner. Sometimes a hotel will be good when it first opens, then decline rapidly if the new owner doesn’t maintain the place. There’s no acknowledgement by TripAdvisor that a review’s author has any right (not privilege, right) to take back a review if the assessment is no longer valid. A pattern of reviews can often identify a once-good property that has gone to the dogs (for instance, the original owner takes great care of a place until selling it and dying after a years-long battle with Alzheimer’s, but doesn’t get to see the next owner idly watch the property fall into disrepair and lose chain affiliations, fail to meet property standards, close amenities such as a restaurant or pool and lower standards to zero) but TripAdvisor seems to lack consideration for its unpaid reviewers to let them update prior reviews when things go sour.

  34. I have found TripAdvisor to be extremely helpful in weeding out hotels that I don’t want to stay at. Yes, you do have to actually read the reviews with a grain of salt and not just look at the ratings. A bad rating could be because a person’s credit card got declined or it could be because the place has bed bugs. I would not care about the former, but would care about the latter. By the way, I once got scabies at a “family-run” hotel that Rick recommended because they don’t change the sheets regularly. Also, it is good to see ACTUAL photos of the place taken by real people and not airbrushed marketing images. I use to find most of the hotels I reserve. It is useful to see them all on a map, sort for the ones that have free wi-fi and then look at prices and rooms. Sorry Rick, I love you, but my days of trying to find a hotel in a guidebook are over. There is no way that you can present the wide variety of options available on the internet. And that’s ok. TripAdvisor is good for hotels, but it is still not so good for restaurants, museums, activities and attractions. Those are the things that I buy a guidebook for.

  35. I frequently find the feedback to Rick Steves’ blog every bit as enlightening as what he writes. For example, most people writing about TripAdvisor here have found it to be helpful for hotel selection and that reinforces my own experiences with the site during the past five years. The commercial and economic impact of the site is also a revelation. There is nothing like visiting a property and looking it and the room over before giving it your money but most people don’t have the luxury of that kind of time. Business is highly competitive and although business is notoriously thin skinned about being criticized by anybody for any reason, constructive criticism as well as praise helps businesses improve – or at least maintain market share. The customer benefits. If TripAdvisor’s flaws or bias or business practices become undesirable, it will fall by the wayside because customers will abandon it. In the meantime, it continues to have a good reputation and an impact on my own hotel decisions. As always, however, in the world of business, caveat emptor.

  36. For me, TripAdvisor is essential when making reservations for accommodations, deciding on tours (day or themed, like ghost), choosing a local guide (the way I was able to choose well for Thailand), and for helping others with their travel decisions.

    I have been pleased with each booking I made for accommodations based on my analysis of reviews on TripAdvisor. I’ve been so successful with my choices through the reviews that I won’t book a place without researching it on TripAdvisor first. Because the reviews work so well for me, I also contribute by posting my own reviews on TripAdvisor.

    I receive emails from travelers who read my reviews with requests for more details or with questions. I have also emailed other reviewers with questions. The responses have helped.

    One of my posts about a merchant in India became part of the negotiating points with the merchant to resolve our dispute. I did not receive what I had ordered. The merchant did not respond to my communications reporting the error. I spent a fair sum of money on the items. I agreed to update my review stating the merchant worked with me to resolve the dispute, if he sent me the correct items. He did and I did.

    I have not made any bookings through TripAdvisor. However, I received a generous discount at a bed and breakfast for mentioning that I saw its discount offered on TripAdvisor. I was also able to use a B&B’s offer on TripAdvisor to receive a like rate at another B&B that was not openly offering a discount.

  37. We were disappointed in Trip Advisor. We stayed in Capri at the Weber. Trip advisor told us it was just average, but the hotel treated us like royalty and the accomodations were wonderful. Much of the information in Trip Advisor was false. I do not consider it reliable.

  38. I once saw an article on how to distinguish between genuine positive reviews and reviews posted by the hotel/restaurant themselves. Basically the article said that if the review uses nebulous or emotion-describing language like “the staff made me feel so welcome” or “the place was so wonderful” the review is probably fake. If on the otherhand the review focuses on specifics like “the bedsheets were very nice” or “the wine was so-so but the pasta was fantastic” or “the free WiFi was fast” that’s usually a genuine review. I don’t have the time or resources to scientifically test the theory, but my anecdotal experience suggest that this is a good rule-of-thumb to follow when evaluating the validity of reviews. Your mileage may vary.

  39. As many have mentioned, I have been a TA user for several years now, and find it to be a valuable tool when planning a trip. It certainly is not the only source I use, but have found (at least in the US) that a hotel’s overall rating usually matches my experience their. I contribute reviews when I stay at a new hotel for the first time, and try to be objective and specific. However, TA’s restaurant reviews are useless in my opinion. If I am looking for a restaurant, I have found Yelp to be a much better resource as it contains reviews by ‘locals’.

  40. Reading, sorting and using reviews is a skill you learn with use and practice, like buying air tickets or ordering on Amazon.

    While certainly there are problems, I feel many a travel author are too protective of their own business model, and I don’t criticize them for that – it is where they make a living from: professional reviews.

    The world of TA is not perfect, but you can somehow manage to use certain information to your benefit.

    As many others wrote, I usually skip through the “I’m in rage” and the “OMG this place is so awesome and perfect” reviews, looking for other reviews that focus on things like parking lots too difficult to maneuver, broken items, objective standards of lack of professionalism (“the receptionist appeared with an stained apron since she runs the kitchen as well”) or undelivered services.

    As for booking, I prefer Booking or Venere through doing business directly with hotel’s website.

  41. I depend on TA for reviews in places where guidebooks fear to go. Like others, I ignore reviews from reviewers with only a handful of reviews, since either the reviewer is a fake or someone who has stayed at so few hotels that I can’t trust their judgment. I also recognize that what one reviewer might gripe about (There’s no free parking! They only let me have a single little cup of coffee with breakfast! Why are there no face cloths in the bath?) are things I don’t care about or accept as just the way things are done differently in different places.

    Guidebook recommendations tend to book up quickly, especially in the summer. TA gives a lot more options that any guidebook can manage.

  42. I’ve used TripAdvisor and have been satisfied with the results. However, I always take the comments with a grain of salt and “read between the lines”. Sometimes I look closely at the bad reviews and try to determine if they seem “right”. Like sometimes “they’re over the top”. OR, the same person appears too often. AND, I never book through the site; I always book with the hotel directly.

  43. Listen to Rick Steves with a healthy dose of skepticism. After trashing the Cinque Terre he needs time off in his vault to count his $zillions. Early stages of Messiah complex syndrome.

  44. I read Ricks books for my travels abroad, check on the hotel comments on TA as well. Also ask thoughts on both forums. I find I trust Ricks comments more, as I feel he is more trust worthy. On restaurants…with his books I have yet to have a bad meal. :)

  45. I use RS guide books and book feedback to help make decisions on hotels when traveling in Europe, but I also review TripAdvisor and other review sites. Despite the hand-wringing over TripAdvisor in this discussion, I see NO difference between TripAdvisor and the RS guide book feedback section (some of the raving feedback entries are obviously from unlisted hoteliers or those compensated by unlisted hotels for the review). Every establishment has customers with bad experiences as no one can please every person every time. Keep that in mind and use all such review sites with some common sense. I usually disregard the very best and the very worst reviews and get an overall picture. (I have added my honest and uncompensated comments to both RS feedback and to TripAdvisor.)

  46. I agree with Lynn above re “take it with a grain of salt.” I posted a warning review about a B & B in Ventimiglia IT, just east of Nice that ended up being in the “high city” (REALLY high – 1 km from the train station, 1/2 km straight up the mountainside and 5 flights of steps from the street) after “Giorgio” upped my fee by half again because I didn’t have a hard cc of my confirmation and the price was verbal over the phone after I’d climbed up there for the weekend. La Terrazza dei Pelargoni was beautiful, the service friendly, neighborhood “authentic” and food excellent, but I felt like I had to warn travelers about the hill, minimal transportation and unpleasant dealing about the price. I’m sure he or other “friends” posted the other glowing reviews on Trip Advisor, so we just need to be aware that not all that glitters is gold.
    I think it’s a useful tool, but am a recently trained librarian/ archivist online searcher who encourages everyone to use lots of “critical thinking tools” when researching ANYTHING on the Internet. Reliable databases, academic sources, (Your Favorite Librarian!) and seasoned travellers are the Way To Go.
    Your comments may be a little cynical or personally preferential sometimes, and certainly hoteliers and restauranteurs REALLY want a good review and feature article from YOU as a stamp of approval, so they’re bending over backwards to be excellent and accomodating.
    We armchair and worldwide travelers appreciate your attitude of “courteous bluntness” without trashing people. If you don’t like them, you say so in your guidebook and leave them out of your blog and shows. “Faint praise…” That’s what I try to convey when I post on Trip Advisor or other so they’ll improve their services rather than to impress other readers with my clever nastiness or damage anybody who’s maybe just doing their best on a bad day.

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