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Old 02-17-2016, 03:42 PM   #21
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I like Trip Advisor, but am biased since I do post reviews and pictures there. Interestingly a lot of hotel management reviews it as well, I have gotten comments from the hotels on some of my reviews. I have also posted questions about things to get further clarification, and have received helpful responses. The forums there seem like ER here - well moderated and you get good answers.

I agree that the hotel prices are not the cheapest - I use them as a guideline. More hotels are now providing their best prices directly on their websites, especially if you are a member of their rewards programs.
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Old 07-14-2016, 06:16 PM   #22
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Here is an article that makes me think twice about using TripAdvisor.

https://medium.com/choking-on-a-maca...bdc#.8wn4kiswo
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Old 07-14-2016, 07:21 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
Here is an article that makes me think twice about using TripAdvisor.

https://medium.com/choking-on-a-maca...bdc#.8wn4kiswo
Yes, there have been some obvious changes over the past few years. TripAdvisor has gone into the booking business, and it's obvious that some properties are getting preferential treatment.

This year I started having to google the hotel websites myself - that was annoying. But in most cases it was because the hotel allowed TripAdvisor to do the booking directly - not a lack of preferential treatment. I however, wanted to book directly with the hotel so I had to do a little extra work.

Also - there are a huge number of ads running on TA enticing you to book tours with Viator or several other providers of various services.

You do have to comb through and actually read the reviews to see if they are legit. I still find the reviews very useful, although I might not rely as heavily in the statistics.

This is the same thing that has happened to Amazon. You have to be much more careful with reviews these days.

I still find it useful for when I am trying to make choices or finding the top attractions in a given area.
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Old 07-14-2016, 09:19 PM   #24
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One big plus for TripAdvisor: pictures.

I always look through the hotel pictures before booking. The pictures that are submitted by individuals. That at least gives me an idea of what to expect.

I don't pay too much attention to the reviews, but I always read the negative reviews to see what people complain about.

I also look at things to do. For the most part, I'll filter out any tours, etc, but instead look for interesting places that we might want to visit. We DIY, so I only use TripAdvisor to get ideas.

Like any resource on the Internet, it can be useful. It'd be nice if there was a site to get unbiased reviews, but any site that would collect that much data is bound to get corrupted by those with a financial incentive.
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Old 07-14-2016, 09:39 PM   #25
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One big plus for TripAdvisor: pictures.

I always look through the hotel pictures before booking. The pictures that are submitted by individuals. That at least gives me an idea of what to expect.

I don't pay too much attention to the reviews, but I always read the negative reviews to see what people complain about.

I also look at things to do. For the most part, I'll filter out any tours, etc, but instead look for interesting places that we might want to visit. We DIY, so I only use TripAdvisor to get ideas.

Like any resource on the Internet, it can be useful. It'd be nice if there was a site to get unbiased reviews, but any site that would collect that much data is bound to get corrupted by those with a financial incentive.
You're right, of course. It's useful but biased. I agree, the travelers' photos (though not the management ones) can be very revealing. Mould, holes in the carpet, etc!
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Old 07-14-2016, 10:19 PM   #26
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We stayed in an inn that had a sign in the lobby asking you to review it on Trip Advisor. In return, you would be entered in a drawing for an all-expenses-paid weekend at the inn. No one could truthfully say this inn was particularly special or charming but there sure are a lot of five-star Trip Advisor reviews for it now.
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Old 07-15-2016, 06:48 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
Here is an article that makes me think twice about using TripAdvisor.

https://medium.com/choking-on-a-maca...bdc#.8wn4kiswo
That is one long article! The writer, a professional guide and travel writer, is trying to protect her own turf, of course, but I was already aware that owners can't have listings removed (that should be the subject of a lovely class action someday), that they were forced to remove references to "truth" and "trust" from their site and that ratings can be manipulated. I was not aware of the Viator connection or the way they extricate big bucks for preferential treatment.

Still... I use them and have over 200 reviews myself. I can honestly say that I haven't been steered wrong based on my research. Cut out the one-review wonders, the vague superlatives or criticisms and the people who expected Hilton service at a B&B, look for specific comments in areas important to me. I write my reviews that way, too. Factual, anecdotes, pictures. If I think the pool is dinky and you don't swim laps, you may not care what I think. Typically I don't book through 3rd-party sites, TripAdvisor or anyone else. Just one more link in the chain that can go wrong, and frequently you need to evaluate whether the lower price is worth not getting loyalty program credits.

I'm tempted to check out hotel ratings at flyertalk.dotcom; it's a more seasoned group of travelers.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:07 AM   #28
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I'm always suspicious of glowing reviews where the person has done very few on TA. Especially when there are no specifics.

Specifics are what I pay attention to - descriptions on the rooms, other hotel details, comments about breakfast, specific praises and complaints. By the end I usually feel like I have a good idea about the benefits and drawbacks of a particular hotel.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:22 AM   #29
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I'm always suspicious of glowing reviews where the person has done very few on TA. Especially when there are no specifics.
Despite the likelihood that there is gaming of reviews, it seems to me that they still can be helpful, and one can "weed out" some of the higher ranked options after glancing over the reviews. At Amazon, TripAdvisor, and also Angie's List, I look for

A large number of reviews, at least 100
Spread out over time, at least a year
Half the reviews by members with other reviews spread out over time
Some bad reviews, also by long term members, also spread out over time.

I ignore options that have an extremely high % of 5 star reviews given over a short period of time, or that have no bad reviews. Just not realistic. Still, this is a never-ending tug of war.
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:30 AM   #30
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You're right, of course. It's useful but biased. I agree, the travelers' photos (though not the management ones) can be very revealing. Mould, holes in the carpet, etc!
Maybe that's why the photos I post that get the most frequent "Thumbs Up" reactions are the ones of the bathroom?
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Old 07-15-2016, 07:31 AM   #31
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I read the one and two star reviews first. If the low ratings are based on something stupid ("we were on our honeymoon and our room smelled funny/had a bug in it/had a burned out light and they didn't even comp it or upgrade us for free to the superdeluxe suite"), I think the place is probably okay. If there is a defensive reply from the management for every single bad review, I take it off my list.

On Amazon (I know that's not travel related), I absolutely discount all the reviews that disclose the reviewer received the item at a discount or for free but hey the review is unbiased and honest anyway, really, it's such a great product. Gah. There are so many of these reviews now.
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Old 07-15-2016, 08:10 AM   #32
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My experience with Tripadvisor and Viator.

We do a lot of minivan day tours when we visit Europe as we prefer not to deal with a car. If a location is easy to visit by train or bus we'll usually go on our own because we like the flexibility. But there are often things worth visiting or the ability to see several things in a day that are more easily done with a driver.

So - TripAdvisor is a good resource for evaluating local tour companies and guides. They seem to cover the gamut - between single person tour guides and large local companies. One of the things I usually end up doing is try to figure out which local tour company is being used by a consolidator like Viator if there is a particular tour of interest (there are several consolidators). They work hard to hide this information!

Researching Barcelona, it took quite a while. Finally I happened to stumble across a tour description that mentioned an approximate meeting location, and Bingo! on google maps I could see that Explore Catalunya was nearby, and sure enough their tour descriptions matched. Then I was able to read reviews specific to that local operator. We ended up choosing a different company because they had options that better matched our goals. I think I found that one mentioned as a very reputable local company in a conversation on TA.

Once I find the local tour companies through various searches, I study the reviews on TA. This can be very helpful - you quickly figure out if someone is unreliable or sold a business, etc. For example, there was a tour company out of Avignon with some great looking trips, several of which interested us. They had a nice web site, detailed descriptions, etc., but until I read the TA reviews, I had no idea that the business had likely been sold about a year prior, and reviews had mostly disappeared - just a few disgruntled ones from a few months ago. There are plenty of bad reviews on TA. So it's not like someone is deleting them.

BTW - I don't think there is a problem with using Viator, and as far as I could tell for the minivan tours they seemed to be about the same price as going direct. I just prefer to deal with the local tour company directly if possible.
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Old 07-15-2016, 09:06 AM   #33
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Interesting timing; I just got a survey from TripAdvisor and decided to fill it out. Quite a few questions about which sites I use to plan vs. book, which I consider unbiased, credible. That article I read earlier didn't help! Sadly, no text boxes for verbatim comments.
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Old 07-15-2016, 02:01 PM   #34
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I both read and posted reviews on trip advisor. I have only used their booking service for a hotel once, but did not have a problem with it (major US city). I also realize that if you belong to hotel loyalty programs that the best bet is to book directly. Sometimes I just want a bargain though and then I find that some of the consolidators and other online booking sites offer better deals ....

I think the reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt - some people complain about the weirdest stuff anyway like the weather at the time of their stay.... Like others have said, I find the pictures posted to be helpful in knowing what to expect. I have always tried to leave a fairly accurate and honest descriptions and some local information in my reviews.(Now that I have a smartphone, I think that I should accompany those with pictures as well.) Overall, I think that you do have to take a little time to do research if you want a good travel experience...
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Old 07-28-2016, 08:46 AM   #35
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That was a long article, and I had already noticed that Viator got a lot of ad space on the TripAdvisor site so there was obviously a relationship, but I didn't realize that:

TripAdvisor bought Viator in 2014

Wow - that's quite a conflict, isn't it. TripAdvisor owning a travel company? A major tour consolidator no less! No wonder it's gotten so difficult to sniff out the local tour company Viator uses.
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:54 AM   #36
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On destinations where cruises go, Cruise Critic is a great resource for discovering local tours. In addition to Viator, the TA forums are populated with tour promoters and rental agents.
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