Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Reliable is TripAdvisor?

TripAdvisor promotes itself as the world's largest travel site, a place where you get "trusted advice from real travelers." I often use TripAdvisor for hotel and restaurant recommendations, and for the most part, it's very reliable. I also contribute reviews. But when I read some of the reviews of places that I had stayed at or had a meal, I wonder if those reviews are really on the level.

For example, a few months ago, I stayed at the Sheraton JFK Airport Hotel. I needed a place to stay near the airport to catch an early flight the next day. The Sheraton had a good reputation and seemed like a reliable place. On TripAdvisor, the Hotel got a 3.5 out of five stars. Not bad. There were negative reviews, of course, but 70 of the 106 reviews, said it was very good or excellent. Some reviews called it a "great experience," a "great spot," "a great example of a first rate airport hotel," and a "home away from home." But after reading these reviews, I asked myself whether I had stayed at the same hotel. As I said in my review, the hotel was mediocre at best (and I was being kind). The hotel was a disappointment and clearly not good in any sense of the word.

I'm not suggesting you shouldn't use TripAdvisor, but take the reviews with a pinch of salt. There will always be people who try to cheat the system. A good rule of thumb is to disregard all of the "over the top" comments (possibly written by the hotel or restaurant itself) and all of the very negative comments, which could have been planted by competitors. In addition, you should use other sources such as Travelocity or blogs for travel recommendations. (A word of caution Expedia owns TripAdvisor and all hotel reviews on Expedia are taken from TripAdvisor.) Finally, be aware that TripAdvisor does not check the accuracy of its reviews.

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