Lodging eats up a lot of the travel budget when you’re planning a trip. So, like most people you try and choose wisely to get a cheap hotel, an amazing hotel or hopefully both. But where do you turn to for advice? There are the old-fashioned, solidly-researched travel guidebooks, in addition to a plethora of online material that’s enough to spin your head. It’s tough to sift through all that information. And is it really reliable? Many people these days turn to the relative ease of reading short travel reviews readily available through sites, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. Others scroll through the reviews posted on booking sites, such as Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago, and HomeAway to mention just a few.
While there is no lack of opinion out there about accommodation, you’ve probably thought to yourself as you surf the web, “Didn’t I just read that on another site?” And you’re probably right. Maybe you didn’t realize that there is a lot of consolidation in the online travel business. Expedia group owns more than 200 online booking sites including: Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Trivago, Hotwire, HomeAway and VRBO. Booking Holdings (formerly the Priceline Group) owns: Priceline, Booking.com, Kayak, Cheapflights and Agoda. Finally, TripAdvisor Inc. owns TripAdvisor, Airfarewatchdog, Bookingbuddy, SeatGuru and Viator, amongst others. Between them, these three companies have been reported to control more than 90% of online bookings in the USA and a significant portion of international bookings.
And what about the reviews. Some are written by the very people who have something to gain from a favorable evaluation. Take TripAdvisor, for example. Hotels can pay TripAdvisor to market their properties & gain an advantageous position in their rankings for available hotels for your destination. Most TripAdvisor reviews are not written by professional travel planners. They’re just subjective opinions by either well-meaning travelers or someone who has an axe to grind. And keep in mind, not all reviews submitted by TripAdvisor members are actually published. To be entirely transparent, I have written over 200 reviews & posted photos on TripAdvisor. After a couple of my reviews were rejected without explanation, I stopped posting.
So why let some random strangers influence your decision on lodging? You have no way of determining whether these people for example, share your expectations about what the ideal room or perfect hotel looks like. There’s a substantial sliding bar between a cheap hotel with the bare necessities & luxury accommodation. So, accept the personal reviews with a grain of salt, check them with a reliable travel guide, and make your best educated guess. Don’t rely on subjective opinion, look for objective facts.
TripAdvisor, Yelp and other similar sites are actually great at another aspect of travel. Check out their “Things to Do” section. This can confirm activities that you thought might be interesting & direct you to others that you may not have known about if you hadn’t read the reviews.