The growing influence of TripAdvisor, is it good for brands? Or have we lost our sense of adventure?
After recently spending three weeks travelling in Europe I am amazed at the number of business who proudly promote their TripAdvisor rating in their window in a bid to win over passing tourists. On more than one occasion I was handed business cards and asked to “please provide a review” after visiting a restaurant. I am traditionally an avid TripAdvisor user but my last trip has me pondering whether the power of such sites is really fair to the smaller brands who are slightly off the beaten track and start ups who have a long way to go before they get enough reviews for them to surface anywhere near the top.
I’ll admit that I consult TripAdvisor to aid in my decision making especially if I’m in a foreign city and don’t speak the language. Sometimes you just want the reassurance that the brand you visit will provide a great experience. I don’t think I have ever been disappointed by a place that is rated highly but in the same token I have been blown away by places that aren’t ranked that high too.
Before we left we booked our accommodation in Marrakech, Morocco by searching through the reviews on TripAdvisor. I thought there must have been some kind of mistake when I found pages and pages of Riads (hotels) with five star rating and Certificates of Excellence. Surly there was some kind of mistake? But we decided to randomly select from the list of five star rated places and hope for the best. When we arrived we could see why they had such a great rating, the hotel staff bent over backwards to offer an amazing service. In this instance the hotels have caught on to the fact that great service will mean great reviews and the better the reviews the more bookings. Once again TripAdvisor delivered the goods.
Of course you need to look at the reviews objectively, I believe that some people will never be happy with the service they receive and that they are just after a place where the can vent and rant and jump up and down. But negative reviews can drastically impact the rating of brands and in tern the livelihood of the business.
Due to the number of restaurants displaying TripAdvisor stickers in their window it is no longer good enough to have a ‘recommended’ sticker, this has been surpassed by the highly sought after ‘Certificate of Excellence’ and ‘Travellers Choice Award’. There is now no room for error for the brands and no room for people have have unrealistic expectations to provide negative reviews.
This is a great example of place I wouldn’t have given another thought to, but because of the TripAdvisor recommendation I gave it a go and it was not disappointed. There is no arguing the power and brand recognition of the TripAdvisor brand.
I do love to know what to expect but sometimes the most delightful places are the hidden gems.
We stumbled across a hole in the wall bar around the corner from our hotel in Lisbon when we couldn’t get into one of the top rated restaurants. We were exhausted, desperate and starving and decided ‘it would do’. We were blown away by the service, food and friendly nature of the owner so much so that we returned the evening after.
Afterwards we looked up the place on TripAdvisor to find that it had fantastic reviews but because it hadn’t received many it was way down the list. If we were solely relying on TripAdvisor we would have missed out on this fantastic experience.
On another occasion we booked a hotel at the last minute which had fantastic reviews on booking.com but after failing to find it on TripAdvisor we were skeptical. It turns out that was one of the best hotels we have ever stayed at. There were more examples which show sometimes you just need to go with the flow and get back to the joy of discovering places for yourself rather than reading about other peoples experiences.
I do like TripAdvisor because it holds brands accountable for the service they provide to consumers and it helps to make informed choices. But sometimes I think it can take some of the joy and mystery out of travel. Perhaps the half an hour we spend reading reviews would be better spent putting our smart phone down and using our eyes and feet to hunt down places with promising brand cues; welcoming shop front, friendly staff, full of local looking people, an interesting looking menu and generally a good vibe.
In seeking other views on this subject I came across this funny video on travel review sites. Good for a laugh!
Director of Brand Projects