Do You Trust Hotel and Restaurant Reviews?

This Oahu hotel had stellar TripAdvisor reviews. We were floored on arrival, and thought about leaving immediately and sleeping in the car. It was the 2005 Pro Bowl weekend and everything was booked solid, except for this hotel. We checked out after one night, which was one night too many.

It all comes down to who do you trust.

According to Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research, more than 83% of us trust the opinion of an acquaintance or friend, while only 30-49% of us trust the opinion of various website editors.

Another study, by Pollara Research, indicated that nearly 80% of those surveyed said they were likely to trust recommendations by real-world friends and family, but only 23% reported being likely to consider a well-known blogger’s recommendation.

For the most part, I found myself in agreement with these studies. It is sometimes difficult to know who you can trust and whether there was any monetary influence in a review. For me, it is more intuition than anything else. Also, does the writer seem to convey a true sense of objectivity about the property. If it is all glowing, that gets me wondering straight away.

Contrast individual reviews with travel review sites like TripAdvisor or Virtual Tourist, in which I needn’t feel trust towards any one author, because there are abundant reviews that I can myself digest and correlate.

A recent Travel and Leisure article spoke about travel review sites and also questioned their credibility. Some sites are making considerable progress in helping you find the truth in their reviews. We’ve previously expressed concerns too about travel review sites, and discussed ways to cut through the muck. TripAdvisor also suffers from an inherent corporate conflict of interest, inasmuch as it is now owned by Expedia.

This starting us thinking about Beat of Hawaii review policies. We enjoy sharing our finds with visitors, and have never received compensation in any form for our reviews. In only one case, (Westin Princeville Ocean Resort), did a hotel or restaurant even know that we would be on site.

What has your experience been with travel reviews? I look forward to hearing your comments.

8 thoughts on “Do You Trust Hotel and Restaurant Reviews?”

  1. It can be confusing and next to useless when the reviews run the gamut from “Nice place, management was very attentive” to “I wouldn’t recommend to my worst enemy”. I guess all things are relative. A few years ago we went to the “best luau on Big Island” and were immensely disappointed with the entire experience, from having to wait in a “garden” for more than an hour without even a complimentary beverage to the availability of food at the buffet table. But I’m sure others enjoyed it. I guess it comes down to live and learn.

  2. Just a few thoughts contributing to this great discussion.
    Unfortunately, a lot of the times people post feedbacks about a place they stayed at when they had a negative experience and wanted to vent their frustration. Why ‘waste’ time when it was meeting their experience?!
    Just heard recently from a friend in Hawaii that she never even goes in a blog when one comes up in a search result because she does not like blogs and does not trust them. Her reasoning: They always just want to sell something. Some truth there.
    Word-of-mouth is still the best advertising and trusted the most.
    Reading traveler reviews in tripadvisor or travelocity is a skill. Using comming sense mostly helps finding the basic message.

    Much more to say. Mahalo Jeff for starting this valuable discussion. Aloha, Pua

  3. Hi Jared,

    On April 14, we did a review of Equus, so please have a look. We’ve stayed there twice recently, and for the money, were very satisfied.



  4. What information can you tell me about The Equus-an aqua hotel? I am staying there for 8 nights in January 09.

  5. Hi Jeanne,

    What a nice comment! Thank you.

    We’ll be identifying the dreadful hotel in question in our newsletter that will be out next Monday.

    As you’ll read, it isn’t a current review, and we wanted to re-check the property before we commented further.

    I’ll say, however, that I’ve never been able to get the horror of a 1-night stay at this hotel out of my mind, even after 3 years.

    I concur completely with your thoughts about both TripAdvisor and the value of triangulation between multiple professional and traveler reviews.

    Best aloha.
    Beat of Hawaii

  6. Hi,

    Love the blog and immediately bookmarked it!

    I’m wondering, though, why you don’t identify the hotel in the picture. I’m very curious to read the reviews in TripAdvisor. How many ratings did it get? Were they consistently good?

    I use TripAdvisor all the time, and I love it. But I’m always wary when there are only a few reviews, or when they contradict each other completely. I take those with a grain of salt.

    It seems to me that the real value of TripAdvisor is in the wisdom of the masses. Only when you can see the cumulative results of a large number of reviews do you get a relatively fair and objective idea of the merits of a place. And the photos that readers contribute are also very valuable in evaluating a property. I hope you’ve uploaded that one!

    I’ve never seen TripAdvisor as a competitor to guidebooks and professional reviews, but as a complement to them. I read both, and evaluate all the information I can get, always considering the source.

    Anyhow, congrats on the great blog. I’ll keep reading.


  7. Blogging is a long term effort, and in fact, it helps to cement and build relationships. Some of these relationships indeed become ‘friends’ and as a result, move the trust into the first category.

    Keep at it!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top