How to use TripAdvisor like a Pro

Recently TripAdvisor has come under scrutiny with well publicised cases of how easy it is to use fake TripAdvisor reviews to cheat the results. Can we still trust TripAdvisor in 2018 ? We say yes, as long as you are savvy and know what to look for. Amongst the many corrupt companies faking it on TripAdvisor there are many travelers taking the time to share their travel experiences so you can benefit on your next trip. If you can spot the worthy reviews, you can gain a lot from using TripAdvisor before your next holiday.

Here’s our tips on how to use TripAdvisor like a pro:

1) Would you travel with this person? When you read a review, does this person sound reasonable and rational?

2) Ignore complaints that are outside the businesses control or flat out ridiculous. There was too much sand (on a desert safari), it was too cold, too hot, too many people speaking Spanish (in Spain) etc. These reviews are out there but need to be disregarded. Some travelers take out their frustrations on a company unfairly. A reviewer left a negative review (in French) with a low rating and when asked why, he commented that the city of Dubai was too commercial. Another complains about the way their table mates were eating, another that complains about the desert being too cold (in the middle of winter). Ignore any comments that were beyond the company’s control. It may make for funny reading ridiculous comments but these can hurt a business and steer people away from a great company. Some of the most horrendous reviews include…

  • Stonehenge – “Big bits of stone in a big field”.
  • The Eiffel Tower – “A big lump of metal”.
  • Sydney Opera House – It’s really nothing special at all”.
  • Taj Mahal – “Not sure how they even get to sell a ticket except to ignorant tourists like me”.
  • Sistine Chapel – “Unimpressive”.
  • Grand Canyon – “Nature is crap”.
  • Colosseum – “There is nothing inside”

3) Is a negative review written about a one off problem or something systemic? For example, is it likely to happen to you as well?

4) Understand how the rankings are collated. Nobody knows how ranking are calculated but the major factors are; the star rating and the frequency of reviews. We have observed that we need about 50, five star reviews to regain position after a single three star review. How does this knowledge help you?

  • A small tour company could have a fantastic product but statistically speaking, someone at some stage will write a less than favorable review. String a few of these together and their rankings start to fall.
  • Some tour companies are seasonal while others run year round. This season business will go for 3-6 months with no reviews. Despite having great reviews, their ranking will start to freefall when year round experiences are still trickling with reviews. This is the case for Balloon Adventures Dubai which generally drops 20 places each Summer.

5) Understand that similar activities are not compared against each other. How do you compare the experience of a city tour vs a Skydive? The answer is, you can’t. However, the algorithms at review sites do. A reviewer usually has only experienced one tour in a destination. Do they know if this yacht is better than that yacht? No. So what is the solution to finding the right tour? Research. Tripadvisor is just one tool in your search. Can you find any blogs? Take a look at the company’s website, look at lots of photos and read the reviews carefully.

6) Do any of the reviews actually have any helpful details? It has been said that you should look for reviews with a lot of nouns and not too many adjectives. Has the reviewer explained the tour and given specific details or does each review just sprout a lot of irrelevant praise? Is it a balanced review with good points and bad? If every review is “only ever good” than watch out as this may be a boosted review, especially if it was written by someone with only 1 or 2 reviews.

7) Read the Owners response to a review carefully. Many companies have abandoned the “customer is always right” mantra and decided to fight back against untruthful, ridiculous, fake and blackmail reviews (our Group CEO is one of these). There are always two sides to every story and it is worth reading to see how much the Owner cares for his staff, service and business.

Today, there are three major stakeholders in TripAdvisor (Travellers, Travel Businesses and TripAdvisor Investors), all with wildly different experiences with the site. Unfortunately, one of these stakeholders is much more important than the others for TripAdvisor and it is starting to show. It is still possible to receive some fantastic advice from TripAdvisor but you cannot read the site at face value alone. You must be able to interpret, read between the lines and look out for basic trends.

To those genuine guests who take their valuable time to help others make the most of their vacation time and to provide helpful feedback to the businesses they frequent – thank you! We want to educate everyone so dishonest businesses do not succeed in deceiving people and people have the wonderful vacations that they deserve.