The Pros and Cons of TripAdvisor

Allison Sodha

Powered by travelers for travelers, TripAdvisor claims to offer independent reviews on hotels, restaurants, and attractions. And with over 230 million monthly online visitors and over 100 million reviews, it has a significant global audience. I recently read an article by Mark Palmer that highlights the pros and cons of TripAdvisor. Palmer writes, "The trouble is that there is no way of proving how many of its reviews are genuine and how many are the work of fraudsters with axes to grind or hoteliers blowing their own trumpets."

Although I encourage Sodha Travel's clients to research the proposed accommodations and attractions, I also caution using sites like TripAdvisor as the sole source of information. Over the years, I have seen several scenarios where the reviews are clearly from competitors or even travelers who have never stayed at the property. Last year, I had a client, Matt, who preferred to book independent hotel accommodations. He asked my opinion about a small hotel in Delhi he had found online. (Sure enough, the hotel had excellent reviews on TripAdvisor.) I informed Matt that we had never actually used the property - in fact, no member of our team had even heard of the hotel. The price was right and the reviews were glowing, so he made the reservation with a nonrefundable payment. Fast forward three months, and Matt arrived arrived in Delhi to learn the hotel did not exist. The website was fake, and the TripAdvisor reviews were diligently created to showcase a "charming property" with "excellent, personal service" in a centralized location.

TripAdvisor claims to have highly sophisticated fraud detection systems that allow for the staff of almost 1,800 to swiftly identify fake or illegitimate reviews. But how accurate is the system? Besides some establishments simply not existing, other concerns with the site include positive, accurate reviews that are flagged as counterfeit and competitors finding ways to create bogus profiles with negative reviews, complete with compromised photographs. Yet another concern is that it is simply impossible to fairly compare the opinions of travelers with varying expectations, especially from different cultures.

Ultimately, fake reviews can exist on any number of sites - just not TripAdvisor. I believe the best way to get a sense of the hotel is to visit several review sites. Generally this gives a more objective and honest perspective about guest experiences. Also, follow the thread of reviews and see if the feedback is consistent. When possible, I read the manager responses at the end of the reviews - positive and negative - as I believe this more accurately demonstrates the level of customer service.

Tell us, do you use TripAdvisor? Has your experience been comparable with the reviews?

Topics: Accommodations

Allison Sodha

Written by Allison Sodha

As the President of Sodha Travel and author of Go! Girl Guides India, Allison has spent almost two decades exploring South Asia. She has a passion for creating experiences fueled by a deeper understanding of local communities.