THERE has been considerable publicity in the UK recently in the press and on television about the authenticity – or otherwise – of TripAdvisor online hotel reviews.
The trick is to read the reviews with caution, to use them as a guide rather than a bible and to ignore the excessively weird, stream-of-consciousness ones.
And it’s usually child’s play to pick out the fake entries left by hoteliers and their stooges.
TripAdvisor is an example of people power in action; if hoteliers and tour operators are unhappy about damage to their reputations, they should put more effort into improving their product, rather than blaming the customer for wanting a better deal.
But, as with everything, one man’s meat is another man’s poison and TripAdvisor is no different. You need to determine some kind of ‘average’ but, at the same time, ignore comments where the praise/ complaint refers to something that isn’t relevant to your choice or tastes.
It’s obviously not infallible, but it’s usually more accurate than the opinion of TV/newspaper travel journalists who have been given VIP treatment by whichever hotel/ tour operator paid for their trip.
You need to concentrate on the four, three and two-star reviews.
One star reviews seem to be all too often from people who complain about ‘too soft pillows’, ‘the noise of the lift’, ‘the absence of Russian TV channels’ (in, er, … Paris) and five star ones from owners or their friends.
Some complaints, moreover, are simply a question of taste (“the place was boring” might signify to others “it’s peaceful”, whilst “the hotelier’s friendly and chatty” that he “doesn’t give you a moment’s peace”).
Reviews in the middle will often explain if one side is a bit noisy, if the pool has enough loungers, if you can park nearby, none of which you tend to get in “official” reviews with their photoshopped website images. You can easily read between the lines.
You quickly see if a hotel focuses on conferences/ weddings more than casual guests, whether the staff are largely helpful or Fawlty-psychotic.
Finally, on rereading this article, I found it witty, unbiased and worthy of a British Press Award. I’ll certainly recommend it to all my friends.
Five Stars! Warning: this column may not be by a real person.
Nora Johnson’s novels, Soul Stealer & The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) now available at Amazon.es in paperback and eBook (€0.89; Amazon UK: £0.77). Profits to Cudeca