You’ve picked where you want to go for your next vacation, but now you have to put in the grueling work of finding the best flights, hotel deals, restaurants and attractions.
So naturally, you turn to the internet and begin scouring through the thousands of reviews posted online.
Afterall, you don’t want to end up at an outdated hotel with shag carpeting, or worse, full of bed bugs…ew!
But can you really trust every review on the internet? Are the sites honest about what they offer? How do you know which review—good or bad—is reliable and accurate?
How To Decode The Review
As A Medium Corporation reports, “An entire industry of “reputation management” companies exists which businesses can hire to create highly believable fake reviews, “fix” their reputation if they’ve received bad reviews, or sabotage their competitors.”
This means that many of the top travel websites, like TripAdvisor, will have original reviews and some fabricated reviews.
As a good rule of thumb, the lengthy and well-written reviews are most likely from questionable sources. A frazzled mom who just wants to write a quick review while the kids are napping probably won’t write it in college essay format.
The average online user isn’t going to put a lot of effort in writing their experience, so anything typed in short hand is probably a trustworthy review.
A paid reviewer will milk that hourly wage by writing a long, detailed review and make it sound convincing enough to be hired again.
Know Who To Trust
People tend to review an experience only if it was a memorable one—good or bad.
If you weren’t able to check into your hotel room and had to wait for two hours in the lobby, you want others to know about it.
On the other hand, if you had an amazing experience where the hotel staff went out of their way to accommodate you, or visited an attraction that blew your mind away, you want people to know about that too… or you just want to brag about how you had the time of your life while your co-workers were stuck at their desks.
Buy Your Review
Unfortunately, just like anything on the open market, reviews can also be bought and sold.
Bing Liu, a data-mining expert at the University of Illinois told the New York Times:
“Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth. They purport to be testimonials of real people, even though some are bought and sold just like everything else on the commercial Internet.”
Chances are, you’ve read more fabricated reviews than you’re aware of that were paid for to make a company look good or bad.
Additionally, the featured hotels and attraction packages listed at the top of many travel sites are from companies that pay to be seen first by users. It has nothing to do with whether they have received good reviews or not.
A Medium Corporation reports:
“Hotels which opt to pay for TripAdvisor’s hefty “Business Listing” package get preferential treatment, increased visibility and “access to traffic”, no matter their reviews, rankings and ratings by travelers.”
And it’s not cheap to have preferred listings either, which is partly how TripAdvisor’s CEO became the fourth highest paid in the nation.
So take the time to scroll through all the options after you put your filters on. Without the filters, travel sites will automatically show their “featured” listings—which doesn’t necessarily mean the best.
Relying On Reviews
When it comes to relying on online reviews for the best deals and experiences, you’re not alone.
The New York Times reports:
“In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of American adults say they sometimes or always read online reviews for new purchases. And more than two-thirds of regular review readers believe that they’re “generally accurate.””
And it’s not just any review that catches the eye of on-lookers. Dr. Simester, a marketing professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, has found that because there are so many more positive reviews than negative, the negative ones tend to stand out more.
This is not a logical approach for us humans, but then again, we are known to defy logic a time or two.
Interestingly enough, although we pay more attention to negative reviews, the market is run on the abundance of positive ones.
We read the negative reviews and take heed to them, yet only give the time of day to a travel accommodation that has at least four stars.
While this may seem reasonable enough, relying on reviews is not a sure-fire way to iron out any potential wrinkles during your next family vacation.
Your 5-star reviewed hotel may still accidentally rent your room to someone else, and you may still get barfed on at that 5-star amusement park.
Reviews Are Still Worthwhile
Although not every review is genuine, if you’re hearing the same overall experience across multiple sites, you can have a good idea of what to expect.
Don’t completely ignore the ten reviews that advise you to spend your money elsewhere, but don’t completely believe every wonderful review either.
To give you some perspective, for example, the Great Wall of China has only 4.2 stars from reviewers on Google for goodness sakes—and it’s a world marvel!
So now that you know the ins-and-outs of online reviews, it’s time to start planning that next vacation!
Do you have a go-to site that you trust for reviews? Have you ever had an experience that didn’t quite reflect what you read in the reviews?
Please share them with us and our readers!