Go Ahead — Leave an Honest Hotel Review

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an article warning consumers not to put too much weight into overly negative reviews. But when it comes to crowdsourced hotel review sites, like TripAdvisor and Booking.com, I’m concerned about a different (and equally vexing) problem: overly positive reviews.

In our review-driven culture, we’re constantly asked to rate our experiences. And sometimes — especially when the ratings go both ways — there’s a big incentive to just be nice. (I have a relative who always gives Uber rides five stars…even the bad ones.)

I’m all for niceness — but not when it comes to reviews. After all, if everyone is giving well-meaning (but meaningless) top marks to everything, then what’s the point of reviews at all?

I’m particularly aware of this because of my work researching and writing guidebooks. For three months each year, I spend hours every day scouting accommodations — ringing doorbells, climbing up dreary stairwells, and interrogating hoteliers in my search for great sleeps.

What do I look for when evaluating hotels? Location is key, as are factors such as cleanliness, thoughtful amenities, local character, soundproofing, and conscientious management. I’ll admit that this list can be self-contradictory, and I rarely find a place that ticks every single box. But with these factors in mind, coupled with expertise and intuition, at the end of a busy day surveying options, a few gems usually rise to the top.

Another big factor, of course, is the friendliness of the hotelier. But increasingly, I’m realizing that this one is tricky. A gregarious, welcoming host can be a big plus — but risks overshadowing even bigger minuses. And these days, I have a hunch that the “niceness factor” is throwing off the curve for crowdsourced reviews.

Crowdsourced review sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com have transformed the way travelers choose and book their accommodations. As a writer of old-fashioned paper guidebooks — admittedly, I’m a dinosaur — I have mixed feelings about this trend. But in the end, I really like crowdsourced sites. I use them often, both in my personal travels and to scout leads and verify hunches in my guidebook research.

I don’t see crowdsourced sites as “competition” to what I do, because they occupy a different niche: Guidebooks provide expert advice, while a crowdsourced site seeks a consensus from an army of amateurs. They’re complementary. Our hunch is that people skim our guidebooks’ hotel listings, then further research their top choices online.

But the crowdsourcing model has inherent problems. When working on a book, I personally visit and evaluate dozens of accommodations in a given destination. But the traveler who leaves a review based on their one-time stay has no basis for comparison. As an experiment, a few years ago I systematically inspected the “Top 10” accommodations from a popular review site in a Croatian town I know very well. A slim majority of them were spot-on. But quite a few were unfortunate outliers. I remember one in particular that was significantly less appealing than its next-door neighbor, but cost far more, for no discernible reason.

After years of admittedly non-scientific testing, I’ve found Booking.com to be the most reliable of the big crowdsourced sites. Until recently, I could pretty well trust that anything above a 9.0 rating was probably a winner. But these days, I’m finding more and more exceptions.

There are probably multiple reasons for this. Some unscrupulous hotels have been known to leave fake positive reviews on some of these sites. (That’s one reason I like Booking.com: You can only review a hotel after you’ve stayed there.) And I know for a fact — because hoteliers have approached me about it — that some hotels try to “game the system” by offering a free breakfast or a discounted rate if you show them a positive review you’ve left.

But I don’t think those factors entirely explain the reliability crisis in crowdsourced sites. Let’s not overlook what I think of as the “friendly host problem”:  I believe that “friendliness” is the X factor that can seriously throw off crowdsourced reviews.

When I’m checking out accommodations, I definitely take the friendliness (or unfriendliness) of the hotelier into consideration. I love it when a host who runs a great place is also a great person — as is usually the case. That’s the cherry on top of an enthusiastic hotel recommendation.

But at the end of the day, I have to call it like I see it. So if I love the hosts but find the rooms subpar, I’ll say so. Rick always instructs our researchers, “You have to be incorruptible. Our readers are counting on you.” I think that’s what our customers appreciate about Rick Steves’ Europe: We always put the traveler first.

On review sites, however, I’ve observed significant “grade inflation” for lackluster properties run by wonderful people. On a recent six-week trip throughout southeastern Europe, I had my worst overnight experience at a place with a sterling 9.5 rating on Booking.com. The rooms were grubby and not entirely clean. The carpets were frayed and worn. A drawer handle came off in my hand. In one corner, the paint was literally peeling off the walls. There were water-pressure problems. And the whole place just smelled musty. Simply put, they were not putting money back into their hotel. And they charge higher rates than more solidly run (if not quite as friendly) places just a few steps away.

Re-checking those rave reviews in retrospect, conspicuously little was said about the rooms. Instead, people raved about the “super-friendly staff…they’d do anything for us!” and the “huge breakfast — more than we could ever eat, and they kept bringing us more!” In other words, they were rating the people who run the hotel (who, unquestionably, deserve a “niceness rating” of at least 9.5)…but, crucially, not the complete experience of staying at the hotel (which I’d put below 8.0).

At another place I stayed — in this case, a wonderful property in every way — the conscientious owner told me, “Fortunately, the people next door with the noisy dogs moved out.” Probing for more information, I was told, “Their dogs would start barking early in the morning, every morning, and there was nothing we could do. Strangely, nobody complained. Maybe it’s because they liked us and didn’t blame us. But we knew it was a problem.”

I get it that the neighbor dogs are not the fault of the host. But if I’m reading reviews of that property, and I know I’m a very light sleeper, am I wrong to hope that somebody — anybody — would tip me off?

Look, I’m not a robot, and I know this may sound harsh. And I don’t want to diminish the importance of hospitality — which is huge. But it’s not the only thing that matters, and my “consumer-protection” streak needs to speak up.

At the end of the day, your experience staying at a hotel is shaped by any number of factors. If a hotel has sweet, earnest, chatty owners, but the paint is peeling off the walls and the nightclub downstairs just extended its closing time until 5 a.m., don’t potential future guests deserve to know that? Giving nice people inflated ratings feels altruistic…but you’re hurting other travelers.

That’s why, the next time you’re reviewing a hotel online, I urge you to be honest. Crowdsourced sites don’t have to be purely about promoting hotels — they can, and should, be about looking out for your community of fellow travelers. It’s OK…go ahead and say what you really think. (We do.)

Have you had an unfortunate experience at a hotel that didn’t live up to its ratings?  Please share your stories in the comments — and let’s see if we can start a trend toward more honest and helpful reviews.

26 Replies to “Go Ahead — Leave an Honest Hotel Review”

  1. Thanks Cameron for your thoughts on this important subject. I always rely on the reviews for information about a hotel or apartment that they don’t advertise. Noise complaints are one of my top issues that can quickly make me look elsewhere for accommodations. With that in mind I always try to be as truthful as I can in my reviews but I also try to make them somehow positive (maybe I suggest an easy solution). And having read your comments, I will continue to try to do even better!

    1. Gary, I ALWAYS make a point of requesting a “quiet” room, away from stairways and elevators, etc. I’ve had good luck doing that with my Booking.com reservations, but still, there are occasions when the hotel personnel do not read and adhere to the request.

  2. I’m a huge fan, and a hostel owner/operator in Belize, currently 8.2 on the booking.com scale (The Funky Dodo Backpackers Hostel http://www.funkydodo.bz), and I have a “yes, but…”.
    By all means, leave an honest review, but please make it an honest review. If you are staying at a two-star basic hostel, don’t rate with five-star resort expectations. Please don’t lower your rating because of something I have no control over — my favorite example: two star rating because the beach was dirty (full of seaweed) — the hostel is not on the beach, it’s one property off), and there’s pitifully little anyone can do about a sargassum bloom.
    My biggest plea (I would all cap this, but I’m not that kinda guy): If there is an issue, talk to us! Let me have a chance to correct whatever it is…don’t “deal with it” and then slaughter us on the review. Small independents live and die via word of mouth and reviews. One bad review because of a niggle can really have an impact; please be mindful of the folks trying to make a living on slim margins, especially in this day and age of unlicensed, unregulated, and tax-evading operators (looking at you, airbnb).
    I could go on and on, but it’ll get boring quickly. I realize that I’m on the Caribbean, not Europe, so not really part of the target audience, but I felt compelled to write.

    1. Hello Roy. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It’s definitely important for all of us to remember that there are real people, working hard, on the other end of those reviews!

      I agree, in essence, with everything you are saying. Absolutely: If you have a problem, give the hotelier a chance to address it before you punish them with a bad review. And be kind.

      And yes, reviewers should take into consideration the relative cost/value of a place. It’s not fair to assess a two-star hotel using five-star standards. (That’s another one of my personal misgivings about crowdsourced review sites: While it’s possible to filter them, the default is to lump every price range of hotel into the same bucket. So it’s not surprising that the Four Seasons is often the top-rated hotel, even if it’s far from the best value overall.)

      I do have a slightly different perspective…you are an advocate for the hotelier, while I’m an advocate for the traveler. And I do believe a traveler deserves to know something less-than-ideal, even if it’s not necessarily the “fault” of the hotelier. I am thinking specifically about noise complaints. I am a terribly light sleeper, so I scour online reviews for reports of noise. If there’s a noisy nightclub next door, I sure hope a fellow traveler points it out, so I can take that into consideration when choosing my hotel. Leaving out that critical detail, in the interest of being nice to a nice hotelier, actually negatively impacts my trip. I’m not saying you should give them a terrible review because of something outside their control. But I believe it’s completely fair to say, “This place is just wonderful for X, Y, and Z reasons, but if you’re a light sleeper, be aware it can be noisy.”

  3. I always try to leave a balanced review – positives and any negatives. Those with a balance are the reviews I most trust when making a travel decision myself.

  4. I too try to leave a balanced review. I might not ding a property for something beyond their control, but I will mention it in the review if I think it will be important to others.

    I try to sift out reviews from “unreasonable” people. I’ve seen reviews from people who literally complained about the width of the hotels parking spaces. I also sift out poorly written reviews (taking into account ESL). This usually helps, but I’ve been burned at least once by well written reviews for what turned out to be a borderline awful hotel.

    I also make a point to read the bad reviews – and the owner’s response to them. I feel it gives you a more rounded picture of what you should expect. You can’t account for everything but you can improve your chances of making a better choice.

    One of the reasons I’m a huge advocate of Rick’s books is because I feel they are value based and practical – expensive isn’t always great, and thrifty isn’t always second rate.

  5. Thanks, Cameron. We love the Rick Steves guidebooks and use them religiously when we travel Europe. When I write a review for Trip Advisor, I try to be scrupulously honest, but when I have reported a negative experience, the feedback from the host was defensive and accusatory (which only reinforced my review). Any review that includes the words “musty smell, dark hallways, dirty, noisy,” trump every other review that may be glowingly positive. Thanks for the input.

  6. I write and rely on user reviews. I feel a responsibility to give travelers the information I want to have when I’m making travel decisions. I’m also a small customer service based business owner (entirely different industry). I have some understanding of both sides. I just returned from vacation, stayed in a really lovely, well run Airbnb. A few reviews mentioned noise in passing. I asked before booking and was told there wasn’t anything the owner could do about local noise, I pressed and the owner suggested I might prefer elsewhere if I don’t like noise. That should have tipped me off but we wanted to stay in this location, at this place plus we live in a big city, our condo bedroom is literally over top of a Firehall. We aren’t overly sensitive to noise. We were not prepared for live music starting at 10 pm with increasing volume that went every night until 3, some as late as 5 am. Then, dogs & roosters started. Every night in shoulder/off season. The review was a dilemma because it was out of the owners control. My complaint is with prior reviewers and the owner for not being more honest with me when I asked. It would have been easy say to say “local clubs play live music that can be very loud and run very late”. We were there for 2 weeks and without our noise canceling headphones we would have had no sleep at all. This is a great small town in Mexico. Tourism is important to Hotel & Business owners. Community groups know this is a problem (I spoke with them). Everyone should be working to control this but if no one makes them aware of the problem, where is the incentive? The owner felt I was too critical in my private review that Airbnb sees when I said their information to me was guilty of omission – I asked for details on the noise, they declined to provide them but I acknowledge they did warn me in a vague way. So, my question is when the problem is out of the owners control, how much do you say in a review when you know you are affecting their livelihood but you think other travelers need to know?

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful response and example, Pat. Assuming your question isn’t rhetorical, here’s my answer: Look out for other travelers with a complete and honest review. You’re not necessarily saying the property is terrible—just that it might not be for everyone. Leaving out details that might help other travelers decide if the property is right for them isn’t helping anyone.

      One guideline Rick teaches our guidebook researchers, which I think about every day, is this: Our job is not promoting a hotel (i.e., trying to talk our readers into staying at a particular place). Our job is to describe the hotel, completely and honestly, so the reader can make an informed ldecision about whether it’s right for them.

      If more travelers applied this rule of thumb to their online reviews, I think fewer people would be disappointed in their travels…especially with the huge influence crowdsourced sites have these days.

  7. When reading crowd-sourced reviews (as well as ones in hardcopy) the ‘why and specifics’ of a rating either side of average is what I consider. The rest is white noise. If a place gets kados for having a lively bar and one is looking for quiet place? Well, maybe that data point belongs on the south side of average. If the breakfast is one way or another I don’t give a hoot and the information is more white noise (to me) as I generally don’t eat breakfast and if I do, it will usually be at a neaby local source like a cafe where I can solve the world’s problems and watch the world go by. In summary, the crowd-sourced reviews can be helpful to me, but only when details are very specific and backed up by multiple reviews (and responses by the reviewed where appropriate).

  8. Thanks for the well thought out opinion. Might I also add that a critical crowd sourced review gives hoteliers an opportunity to improve their offering and raise their game. I have seen some responses to negative reviews, where the hotelier appears grateful for the critique. If I were one, I would appreciate it, and act on it too.

  9. Great article, Cameron, and very informative. I also try to give an honest review, but nicely. I stayed in a B&B in Ireland last September. Reviews were all over the place. We took our chance on a “family room” – three beds with an en suite bathroom. There were many issues with this room – extremely poor lighting, grubby, in a small converted attic, no ventilation, staircase landings used for storage. But the beds were comfortable, the breakfasts were wonderful and plentiful and the location was ideal. When I posted my review I addressed these concerns but also made sure to point out the positive points. The host responded and accused me of being too critical and expecting American amenities. But had I known about the attic bedroom and the shabbiness, I would have either booked another room or stayed someplace else. Most likely her other rooms were nicer, but I felt other travelers would benefit by knowing about these issues and making their own informed choices. A converted attic might be perfectly ok with other travelers; they might not care about the suitcases and dressers stored on the landings, but if they have mobility issues or allergies they’d need to know. I do wish the host hadn’t been so defensive and maybe used my review to make changes. Now I make sure I not only read the not-so-glowing reviews but also the host’s responses.

  10. We travel to Europe for a month every year. We usually make 10 to 12 stops per trip and have mostly had very good experiences with our selection of B&Bs or hotels. On a one-month trip to France, we stayed in the south, and I was thrilled to find an affordable hotel with a great view. I read all the reviews and they were fair. Once we got there, we found our room to be small but clean, with a beautiful view. Then I walked into the bathroom. It looked clean until I realized the shower stall and curtain were ridiculously mildewed.
    I made the mistake of not calling it to their attention. I left them a review online indicating both the pros and con, but to this day regret not speaking to them about it.

    On our trip to Germany, we stayed in a super cute B& B which was delightful except for the host. She was very unfriendly, not at all welcoming and watched every piece of food you took at breakfast. She just stood there and watched us. Then she had the nerve to charge us extra for internet which was included in our price but it was not working. We had to urgently send a couple of emails so she let us use the internet in her kitchen for a few moments. Needless to say, she got a review based on our experiences and pointed out the good and bad.

    I mostly use Booking.com and do quite a bit of research before making a final decision on a spot. We stay at 3 star accommodations unless a 4 star is within our budget. On our recent trip to Scotland, I made last minute reservations at a 2 star hotel in Skye because that’s all I could find. It was an older hotel, and as I read the reviews I kept reading how it was noisy. When we got there, we were pleasantly surprised. Yes it was old, but it was clean, the restaurant was fine and the location was perfect.

    Overall, I think we’ve been super lucky.

  11. My recent hiking tour guide in Barcelona asked us to write a reviews on his favorites Google (through maps) and TripAdvisor, but was quite frank that he knows he will get bad reviews when he doesn’t meet someone’s expectations, but he also knows that these will average out over time. If he is good, he will mostly get good reviews, and smart travelers will figure that out.

    Cameron Hewitt, I agree with you completely, “guidebooks provide expert advice, while a crowdsourced site seeks a consensus from an army of amateurs. They’re complementary. Our hunch is that people skim our guidebooks’ hotel listings, then further research their top choices online.” This is what I do.

    I also agree that we may even rate a cheap hotel with a 4-star review, because we got what we paid for, but be sure note details that are helpful to people reading… “cheap hotel, bad part of town, got scared twice, but nice owners and I wanted to save money…”

    “Roy June 15, 2018 at 2:29 pm”: I disagree with this statement of yours completely, “Small independents live and die via word of mouth and reviews. One bad review because of a niggle can really have an impact; please be mindful of the folks trying to make a living on slim margins…”
    and I think that your comment is part of the problem with inflated reviews… I believe some people are “afraid to hurt” a business. But I do believe, Roy, that your business can learn from poor ratings, and work for better experiences. (Or you can choose to blow off the rating… I saw one owner retaliate on a bad review that the reviewer was being “bitchy, tired, and unfunny,” and honestly it was hilarious enough that I believed the owner and not the reviewer)
    If the beach is yucky, then tell people where a nice beach is (!), problem solved.

  12. Re an Airbnb review, host advertised he lives alone and is rarely home. When the three of us show up to occupy the large master bedroom we discover there’s three of them! It’s not fun for six people to share one toilet, one shower, one washing machine. The pictured bed, sofa, half the living room were no longer, so we had nowhere to sit in the living room and had to sleep on one regular mattress, one dusty, painful sofa bed, and a thin, smelly mattress. The girlfriend and tenant had been living there for six months but the host hadn’t updated his situation and none of the reviewers brought it up…not cool. Our third person arrived the next evening, well after the Airbnb complain within 24 hours policy. The three regular tenants never locked the front door, we had no lock on our bedroom door- really uncomfortable as we had passports, cash, laptop, iPads. As a nearby hotel cost the same for more space and locking doors it was really frustrating.

  13. Thank you so much for your article on hotel reviews. I greatly appreciate the crowd sourcing sites, but have found the overly positive reviews somewhat misleading, unless they are very descriptive. I am traveling to Europe for the third fall in a row this year – and hope to continue for many years to come – and I always start with Rick Steves reviews. I then turn to crowd sourcing sites, mostly Trip Advisor (but now based on what you wrote will also utilize Booking.com more) to look for specific things I am concerned about by using word searches. For example, we found a place in Venice based only on traditional book reviews on our first Europe trip that had many good qualities, but the floors squeaked so badly and the breakfast was marginal. To tease out those issues I now do searches in crowd source sites, after I have selected some possible places from Rick Steves, using the words I have as primary criteria for selecting an accommodation. During my reviews on Trip Advisor I sometimes find gems not listed in RS book, and so I try to read as much as possible before selecting, and even asking the the owner about very specific issues.

  14. This was an interesting and thought-provoking article. Reviews are something I struggle with, especially on Airbnb where it’s such a personal experience (you are staying in someone’s actual home) so leaving a negative review feels like you’re insulting a friend’s house.

    I have, however, left negative reviews on Airbnb for the reason you mentioned: to help other travelers. We stayed at a place in Mexico where the owners left us with a very frightened dog that snarled and snapped at us if we tried to get anywhere near it. We are dog lovers, but had no idea whether they were coming back to get the dog at some point, or if we were allowed to (or supposed to) let it outside when it stood by the back door and barked. The housekeeper was the one who let us in and showed us our room, and she didn’t have answers to these questions. The owners didn’t respond to texts/calls. We were concerned about getting bitten but even more concerned about whether it had food, water, etc. It was just incredibly stressful. (Someone did finally come and get the dog in the middle of the night, while we were asleep.) I left an honest description of this situation in my review.

    At another Airbnb that had hundreds of five-star reviews, we discovered that the owner had an almost-life-size nude photograph of herself in the living room. It didn’t bug us (we found it kind of amusing and still joke about it) but if I’d been traveling with kids, that would be the kind of thing that would be handy to know! (The place was lovely otherwise so I gave it a high star rating and mentioned the nude photo in a joking way.)

    Your article was eye-opening for another reason — I do a TON of research on places ahead of time, so I’m always dismayed when the reality doesn’t match up to the description. I think the times I’ve gone most wrong are the times when I pay too much attention to how “nice” people say the hosts are, and not enough to other factors. I am going to watch that carefully from now on.

    BTW, for those of you who are light sleepers, you can search specific TripAdvisor properties — if I’m thinking seriously about a place, I do a search for words like “noise” and “loud” to make sure I ferret out other reviews that have mentioned noise issues.

  15. I write occasional reviews (have written over 100 in the past few years) of restaurants, hotels & activities I’ve visited. I try to be as honest and through as I can about my experiences, going into detail in order to give those planning travel an accurate picture of what they can expect to help them make informed planning decisions. I hate reviews that simply say “I hated the place” or “I liked the place” without supplying details as to why. Those type of reviews are of no help to the traveler. I even started my own travel blog – http://www.apickytraveler.co, a couple years back so I could go into depth and write about my travel experiences with a personal touch. I include photos most of the time. I have had feedback that people feel that my descriptions make it feel like they are there experiencing the place or food with me. Would love to do this type of work full time. Alas, it seems like a hard field to break into.

  16. A friend and I just had a very good 4 day VRBO experience in California. The hosts were nearly invisible, but available when needed. The place deserved 5 stars, but I debated about remarking on the hosts. I could have said something like “if you don’t require warm and fuzzy greetings, this is your place,” but I didn’t. Instead, since their behavior was just fine with me, I gave them all the 5 stars the apartment itself deserved.

  17. I have written hundreds of online reviews and have read thousands of them. My biggest problem is when people offer an opinion without any facts to back it up. One person says it was ” cheap” and the next says it was ” too expensive.” Those terms are meaningless.Tell me what you paid! They say “Great stay” and leave it at that. I try to include as many facts as possible. I might mention how long it took to walk there from the train station, how long it took to check out, or mention exactly what was included at breakfast. I just wrote two positive hotel reviews and one negative. I was careful to mention positive aspects, and to back up my negative opinions with fact after fact. It is helpful to read several reviews written by the same person to get a feel for their priorities. I also think it’s human nature to want to pat ourselves on the back a little. If you find great place , it makes you feel like a genius. But if you pick a place and it stinks, then you feel like an idiot. I always wonder about people who pay a fortune for a room or a meal, and then insist that it was worth it. Well, of course it was. Otherwise, they would have to admit to being fools!

  18. I couldn’t agree more, Cameron. Based on crowdsourced reviews, I booked a bnb hotel in London within walking distance to the British Library. The only good thing about my experience was the location and the young women who worked there. The owners were beyond unfriendly, the quality of the food they served at breakfast was the cheapest they could provide, and the young Portuguese women they employed were obviously afraid of the male owner who barked at them. I slipped each of them a good tip when he wasn’t looking.

  19. Absolutely! What’s the point of reviews then? We had an experience like this while traveling in Ireland. We booked a bed and breakfast in a small town based on good reviews, location, and pictures they had on their website. When we got there, we wondered if we had the wrong address. Nothing was even remotely close to the pictures, the heat was off and it was freezing in our room, the water never got remotely hot in the shower, the free wifi (which was advertised) only worked if you sat in ONE specific chair in the dining room (seriously, the owner told us this when we asked about it) which was always occupied, the bed was like a rock, and our room was 20m away from a barn which noisy farm machinery was backed in and out of repeatedly at 4am. Needless to say, we did NOT give this place a good review on TripAdvisor. I got a very threatening email through TripAdvisor railing on ME for giving a “small family run bed and breakfast” a bad review and damaging their business reputation!

  20. I also write and rely on reviews and concur that some are inflated or misleading. One thing I look for is whether the reviewer has a history of reviews or only one or a few posts (which suggests it can be an owner or friend or a “kickback” review). Another is the response. Some are pure patronizing and condescending, promising to bring problems to the attention of the right people, etc., while never addressing a specific complaint in any meaningful way. Even worse is when the same issues reoccur and there has been no correction. All of those are red flags.

    In writing reviews I go by a basic maxim: Is it clean (including the air) and does everything work as it should? Frankly, most places have trouble meeting that standard. I also grade on a curve. You don’t expect a Motel 6 to be a Marriott but you also don’t expect a Marriott to be a Motel 6. Another factor in the curve is whether the hotel is better or worse than its peers. A Courtyard or Hilton Garden Inn are good benchmarks overall but some Courtyards or HGIs are better (or worse) than the average so I will comment on that, too. It’s important to be fair: a light bulb can burn out unexpectedly but the true test is how problems are responded to and corrected (if at all). If a hotel has staff in the rooms every day and there are problems it usually means that the staff was not proactive in reporting them to maintenance. At the end of the day, though, the real dealbreaker is whether the place was clean and everything works as it should and guests shouldn’t be hesitant to write about it.

  21. Thanks, Cameron, so much for this article. My husband and I are traveling full time. We usually stay at Airbnbs and always write reviews for these stays. We try to be as honest as possible, but also nice. After reading your article, we are trying to be even more honest, considering what we ourselves would like to know. As mentioned by others, noise is a big one for us too. And a comfortable bed. Thanks again.

  22. I travel almost nonstop. I have done so for 15 years. Some for business but mostly for pleasure as my job allows me to work remotely. In my own experience the only useful reviews are recent ones. I tend to focus first on the negative reviews because they call out things like lack of cleanliness, excessive noise, etc. It’s fairly easy to filter out the hysterical negative reviews and focus on the ones that give real information. I think the set of things that bother people is much smaller than the set of things that people enjoy. So there is more relevant information in the negative reviews. Positive reviews are useful for finding clean hotels. Heeding recent reviews about both cleanliness and lack of hygiene generally pans out.

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