Tripadvisor 101: Finding What You Need

Whether you’re self-planning your trip or working with a travel agent, you will want to conduct some research to compare different options in the hopes of choosing the one you’ll enjoy the most. While the internet has made the task of researching easier, it has also made it more daunting due to all the various sources and content to scroll and swipe through. One very popular site is TripAdvisor as it is “the largest travel site in the world, with more than 315 million members and over 500 million reviews and opinions of hotels, restaurants, attractions and other travel related business”1. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the Pros and Cons of TripAdvisor and some tips to sift through the data to help you conduct research faster and more accurately; specifically for accommodations (similar strategies are applicable to restaurants).
  • Easy to get an overall impression of customer satisfaction based on the “Overview: and spread of reviews between “Excellent” to “Terrible”
  • TripAdvisor combines all the scoring from the reviews to establish a ranking system of items that fall into the same category, i.e The Park Hyatt Tokyo is #1 of 83 hotels in Shinjuku. While it’s not always the case, reviewed places that rank higher tend to be the ones that people are most satisfied with.
  • It is easy to click on key items to get more information, i.e if you want to read all the “Terrible” reviews, and find out more about the restaurant.
  • You can browse professional and traveler photos that are categorized.
  • You can browse the profile of the person who completed the review to determine how relevant their review is.
  • When you click on the ranking to see the full list, it will feature “Sponsored” properties first and you need to click on “Traveler Ranked” to see the complete results.
  • Some of the photos are terrible; they’re more about the people in them than relevant to the review.
  • While some of the reviews are standardized, the most substantial part of it is not standardized by category and you can’t filter out short reviews that only say “great stay!” or “would not return”, which are somewhat irrelevant for those looking for more detailed information.
  • When there are a lot of reviews, it can be time consuming to find the ones that are the most relevant based on your evaluation criteria.
  • There isn’t a way for TripAdvisor to verify the validity of the review in terms of, did the Traveler actually visit? Fake reviews are a concern and have occurred.
Now that we’ve looked at the Pros and Cons of TripAdvisor, let’s work on a strategy to get the information we need, as quickly as possible. Here are my tips to help you.
  1. Read the “Terrible” reviews first, then the “Average” and then the “Excellent”. While “Terrible” reviews are negative overall, look at the content and the issue. I remember reading “Terrible” reviews that were not relevant because they criticized the hotel for not have free toothbrushes, television, accepting a certain type of credit card, or a lack of western breakfast at the restaurant. For me, it was very easy to dismiss these negative reviews.
  2. In the case of accommodations, if it’s a place that’s newer, smaller, or just doesn’t have a lot of reviews, check to see the number of reviews the traveler has posted. In some cases, properties will encourage guests to write reviews and some might be “fake”, especially if there is a high number of reviews from new members with only 1 review. If the Traveler has reviewed other accommodations/restaurants, are they places you have been too? Do you agree or disagree with those reviews? Someone once said that “smart minds think alike” and so this might be helpful. In some cases, a budget traveler might overrate a property based on their other experiences in the same way a luxury traveler might underrate a property.
  3. When was the review posted? Was it before or after a renovation or a brand change? I tend to look at reviews in the last year or two, at the most. This applies to accommodations and restaurants.
  4. How does the property respond to reviews? I am usually impressed when a property takes the time to respond to both negative and positive reviews, and their response to the negative reviews gives you an idea about how they handle customer service and overall service during a stay. While some responses may appear to disagree with the customer VS. the customer is always right, I commend properties who speak up in a respectful way when someone’s negative review is unreasonable.
So even if you do your research, you might end up dissatisfied by a stay. Once, we stayed at the top rated hotel in a beach resort location and were quite disappointed and couldn’t understand why people thought the place was so spectacular. One of the things that we noticed during our stay was the demographic of people who stayed there, a selfie haven for the young and glamorous, which is something hard to figure out from TripAdvisor reviews and this leads me to my next point. We have also noticed that when people stay at expensive luxury hotels, their standards and expectations are higher which is why the same user will write a negative review about the Four Seasons while writing a positive one about a Best Western.
In addition to looking at TripAdvisor, you may want to complete a “meta-analysis” by looking at other sources, i.e other travel sites, blogs, and social media (Facebook, Instagram).
  • We really like this travel site because it lists “pros” and “cons” about properties that are very objective.
  • Blogs: Some blogs do a really good job of providing reviews that are more detailed than TripAdvisor, i.e talking about elite benefits, quality photos without people in them.
  • Facebook: I read some of the reviews for a hotel I was thinking about staying at and decided to contact someone via Messenger who stayed at the property and ask some questions. Based on the person’s answers, we decided not to book the property. While not everyone will respond if you message them, it does give you a chance to interact with others easier than on TripAdvisor.
  • Instagram: Since Instagram is “visual”, it’s nice to see the photos travelers and the property actually posts on their account. It can give you an idea of the type of place it is and what you will experience there.
The sun was too bright, the ocean too salty and the drinks were too strong. You are bound to read it all while perusing TripAdvisor reviews, so pack some patience, a grain of salt and a sense of humor and happy researching!
Do you have any other tips and tricks and experiences to share about travel research on TripAdvisor and other sources?

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