Using TripAdvisor to Make a Travel Decision

By now, I expect that you have a member of your staff dedicated to reviewing and responding to comments posted on your TripAdvisor listing. These responses are designed to do a number of things, from complimenting a reviewer to acknowledging a fault and addressing the issues. The practice of making these responses is pretty much ingrained in every property’s social media program.

But what about these responses: How do they help your TripAdvisor rating, and importantly, how do they help move site visitors to property bookers?

I am planning a trip to a European city that I have never visited previously. With no leads, or referrals, I attempted to select hotel solely on the commentary and manager’s responses available in TripAdvisor. It is an exercise that you should do some time soon. Here are my findings:

  1. It may seem obvious, but TripAdvisor rankings are sorted by location on the basis of the property’s respective star ranking. The better rankings are obviously on the top of the list.  In cities where there are hundreds of properties listed, the human spirit makes it very difficult for anyone to sort through more than 10, or or 30 listings. Clearly, the higher up you are in the rankings, the better.
  2. Hotels are also sorted by categories: Best Value, Family, Luxury, Business and Romance. Check to see where you rank in these categories. Again the same ranking issue applies: the prospective purchaser will tire after the first few listings. Note that you do not assign these categories, they are based upon reader response. This means that while you might think of your property as a business destination, it might not be ranked as such by the TripAdvisor crowd.
  3. When it gets into the TripAdvisor ratings, they will be read thoroughly. This includes your responses.  So read them carefully. Do you use the same language with every single one? Do they show that you really listened? Many that I found sounded so sanitized that they seemed to come through the corporate counsel’s office, than the office of the resident manager. When you respond, make it genuine, and treat each answer individually.
  4. Photos are an important part of the TripAdvisor experience. The photos taken by guests are typically awful. But the ones provided by the property are much more useful. Make sure you have a selection that covers the guest room and bathrooms. Less important are scenic vistas, exteriors and common space. So, whatever you do, set priorities for your selections.
  5. TripAdvisor business listings are mandatory. This program gives you at least some added control of your presence. The price of this listing is based upon a number of factors. Get more information at tripadvisor.com/BusinessListings.
  6. TripAdvisor is not enough. Sadly, I left TripAdvisor more confused about my hotel selection than when I began my search. I was less than impressed by some of the reviews: the text often addressed issues that were ‘micro’ rather than ‘macro’: do you follow a recommendation just because the front desk receptionist smiled at the guest, or there was a fruit basket upon arrival?

I believe that TripAdvisor has a degree of usefulness, for checking up on a hotel that is on promotional special, or included in a package. But as a primary search vehicle, frankly, there is too much variability to base a final decision. Other sources such as well-respected, professional reviewers, real (traditional!) travel agents and travel publications seem to offer the additional depth and knowledge that give the traveler the detail necessary to make these decisions.

(Published by Larry Mogelonsky in eHotelier on February 6, 2013)

Larry MogelonskyUsing TripAdvisor to Make a Travel Decision