In the days before the internet, people booked hotels by calling up the hotel in the city they were traveling to, and they booked it over the phone. Some people might have asked friends and family for recommendations, but mostly you were flying blindly. Nowadays, you can find customer reviews online for just about anything. From hotels to banana slicers (yes, that’s a real thing), if you have an opinion about a product or service, you can leave a review for others to see.
According to a 2017 study done by Statistic Brain, 81% of travelers find reviews important and 49% won’t even book a hotel if it doesn’t have any reviews. Follow their suit– by checking out the online reviews for hotels on sites like Booking.com, Tripadvisor, and TGW Travel Group, you will avoid the duds and be led to a hotel that will meet your needs and give you the vacation you deserve!
Things to Look for in Hotel Reviews
Surcharges: Hotels love to charge extra for things like processing fees, resort fees, and “complimentary” fees. It may seem sneaky and dishonest, but, it’s perfectly legal. Sometimes customers are surprised by those fees because they were sneakily slipped into the small print in the checkout. Luckily, when you consult destination travel reviews online, you won’t be surprised by the extra cost of surcharges.
Cleanliness: The images you see on a hotel website are almost always going to be way better than the reality. Hotels want to show you the most luxurious and pristine image of their business to attract customers like you. This involves a professional photographer and may even involve some digital manipulation. But, have you ever arrived at that well-photographed hotel only to find dirty linens or unsightly stains in the bathroom? What a nightmare. By checking out reviews ahead of time, you can be sure to find the hotel that meets your cleanliness standards. Customer reviews can also alert you about bed bug histories and housekeeper accountability and pride.
Customer Service: Let’s say you get to the hotel: the rates are within your budget, the room is clean, and it’s in nice neighborhood. But, then you find out the hotel staff are some of the rudest jerks you’ve ever met. Fortunately, rude customer service is one thing that people LOVE to complain about! By checking the online reviews first, you can be sure to avoid the jerks and get the perks!
Location & Safety: Maybe the hotel says it’s within walking distance to the heart of downtown, but customer reviews tell you that it’s actually an hour away on foot. Not that it’s impossible to walk for an hour, but you didn’t plan for that. Reading reviews before you book your hotel could save you the big headache of finding further transportation.
Busy Times of the Year: Unless it’s a place you’re familiar with, you could end up booking a hotel right in the middle of the town’s annual beekeeper conference. What could have been a nice, quiet weekend now turns into an exhausting weekend of trying to avoid bees and the throngs of people.
Price Comparisons: By checking online reviews, you might find out that a similar-rated hotel just down the road is a few bucks cheaper.
Non-refundable Rates: Hooray for you! You secured a room at lower-than-average rates. But, unfortunately these lower-than-average rates come with a non-refundable clause.
Beware of Fake Reviews
In a study concerning ratings and reviews, researchers found that while both ratings and reviews were used to narrow down hotels, the final booking decision was usually based on reviews rather than ratings. However, not all reviews are worth the same amount of consideration. In September 2017, the NBC4-I Team discovered hundreds of fake reviews for businesses in the Southern Californian area. These fake reviews were not just limited to hotels. They were found on Yelp, Facebook, and Google and addressed many different kinds of businesses and services.
A common factor in these fraudulent reviews was the use of a picture of a celebrity on the reviewer’s profile. One fake review used a picture of a former winner of a reality television show. Another used the face of actress Abigail Breslin. This is the easiest red flag to spot, but it also might be the easiest to miss if you’re not up on the latest in Hollywood.
The NBC4-I Team reached out to Yelp, Facebook, and Google for further clarification on why these fake reviews were so prevalent. Yelp said that about 25% of reviews aren’t trustworthy. These include fake reviews, irrational customers, or slanderous raves. Some companies, like Amazon, have taken measures to combat these untrustworthy reviews.
How Does the Review Sway Consumers’ Minds?
In a case study done by Beverley A. Sparks and Victoria Browning, they found that negative reviews tend to leave more of an impression on consumers than positive reviews. They also found that positive reviews coupled with a numerical rating system increased the likelihood that a consumer would book with that hotel. This is a helpful piece of information that consumers need to be aware of when looking at user-generated reviews. Reviews tend to be more based in emotion and can go into detail regarding expectation vs. actuality. Numerical ratings, while useful, provide no description of the user’s actual experience. On that note, it’s also a good idea to read travel company reviews as well. TGW Travel Group, for example, has an approval rating over 98%. By using such a well-reviewed travel destination company, you can start planning your next great trip worry-free!