TripAdvisor-Friend or Foe?

There are those who love it, those who hate it, and those who take what they read on it with a grain of salt (I fall into the last category). I am of course talking about the monumentally popular and sometimes controversial website TripAdvisor.

To some people TripAdvisor  is the Bible of travel planning. When they want to research a hotel they go to TripAdvisor’s site because odds are there will exist at least one review on it, if not hundreds. While guidebooks will only include at most a dozen hotel reviews, the smallest and most obscure hotels will generally be found on TripAdvisor.

Like many open forums on the Internet, I often wonder about the authenticity of some of the reviews I read on TripAdvisor’s site. While many seem genuine, written by travelers  anxious to share their experiences with fellow travelers, others seem greatly embellished and some nothing more than a baseless diatribe.

In my experiences hotels where I have had a fantastic stay are often critiqued by travelers with similar views. When there’s one review in which the person reports on a completely different experience from all of the glowing reviews (the front desk staff was rude, the room unclean, the property outdated), I’m a bit dubious, which is why I take what I read on TripAdvisor with a grain of salt.

On my honeymoon last year to Belgium and Paris, D and I stayed at three hotels. All featured mostly positive reviews on TripAdvisor, while all also had a couple of negative ones which in my opinion points to those as being more the minority than the norm. Our first hotel was the Marriott Brussels. One of the negatives was the scent of the bath products; the reviewer wasn’t a fan of lemongrass. This should be counted as a strike against the hotel, really? Our second hotel was the Hotel Patritius in the medieval city of Brugge. The person who wrote the slightly scathing review was upset that the proprietors wouldn’t accommodate her husband who had diabetes, complaining that all that was offered to him were rolls. In her review she wrote how she had asked for him to be accommodated at the time she made the reservation. Who knows if this is indeed true. The reviewer could have only announced this special need request at the time they checked in, or even at breakfast their first morning. When she wrote how the husband and wife owners were rude and defensive to them, I simply couldn’t believe this based on our interactions with them. Our third and final stay was at the Hotel du Cadran in Paris. The majority of the negatives here were regarding the small size of the room. Frankly, I don’t count it as a negative, knowing firsthand not only how expensive all hotel rooms in Paris are, but also that small is indeed the norm, space a prized commodity. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have preferred a larger room, but one visits Paris to see the sights, not to stay cooped up inside.

I still go on TripAdvisor from time to time but when selecting a hotel, I consult a variety of sources as opposed to just going by one. I’ll be anxious to see how our Hawaiian hotel holds up to the reviews on TripAdvisor’s site when we go in November (majority all glowing recommendations). My humble recommendation-do your research, and be savvy enough to consult multiple sources and not just rely on one.

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