One of the many reasons I love the Internet is because it has empowered the individual in so many ways. Especially in travel. These days, you don’t have to rely on a travel agent or a book to plan your trip. You can do it on the Internet.
And in travel planning, one of the Internet’s greatest strengths is its ability to give you very current information. One aspect of travel where current information is critical is hotels. If you rely on a book, a hotel that was highly rated based on one or more stays during the “research” phase may have gone downhill by the time the book is out in print.
You may remember the Merrill Lynch (I think it was) TV commercial where two people are talking at a noisy, crowded party. One says to the other: “My stock broker is Merrill Lynch and Merrill Lynch says….” and then the whole room goes silent as everyone strains to hear the advice.
Well, my hotel advisor is TripAdvisor and I never book an unknown hotel without checking out what its many readers have to say about it in contributed reviews. In most cases, I’ll find a number of reviews and often there are current reviews. TripAdvisor has steered me away from hotels that appealed to me on price and whose website looked good but whose customer reviews were less than robust.
TripAdvisor has also confirmed my thinking to stay at a hotel when price and other information looked good but I needed some “evidence” to put any lingering doubts to rest. Most recently, TripAdvisor reviews convinced me that the $59 rate for a Friday night at the Desert Rose Resort in Vegas last January, when our MGM deal was not valid, was indeed a bargain. The hotel is across from MGM, so we could walk there, and the price was right but…
The TripAdvisor reviews overwhelmingly praised this non-casino hotel which used to be Hawthorne Suites. So I booked it. I wasn’t disappointed. The hotel was fantastic and I’ll stay there again if I can get that price.
After relying on TripAdvisor for so long, I decided that I should “give back” and share my own hotel experiences for the benefit of others just as they do for me. I wish I had become a contributor long ago, when my travels were much more extensive than today, because then I’d have contributed much more than the 17 reviews to date.
Recently, I became aware of just how popular TripAdvisor is. I wrote a review of a La Quinta in Panama City after staying there in early February. About a month later, TripAdvisor sent me an e-mail noting that the review had been read about 50 times. Wow! (The e-mail was actually a request to submit any more reviews for recent stays that I had not yet submitted.)
With the economy being so poor, hotels are in especially fierce competition for the business of those folks still traveling. And while price is a factor, it is not the only factor. Especially when prices are in the same price range. Amenities, customer service and other factors then become critical.
Consequently, hotels are now using TripAdvisor to learn what they need to do to maximize repeat business and to appeal to anyone considering their property. A recent article I came across in USAToday notes how TripAdvisor reviews have resulted in hotels taking action to address negative comments noted in customer reviews.
In the past, I doubt that most hotels would be so concerned about a single customer’s bad experience. How many folks could the customer influence? But with the Internet, one customer’s bad (or good) experience can be shared with millions of potential customers. That’s empowerment!
So before you book a hotel you’re not familiar with, you may want to see what TripAdvisor reviews look like. And if you notice a review from “Travel Grognard” then you can be confident you’re getting the straight scoop…because that’s my screen name there!