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 guide book to plan your trip. You can do it yourself on the Internet.
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 guide 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 in print.
You may remember the Merrill Lynch 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 “assurance” to put any lingering doubts to rest. On one of my Vegas trips, TripAdvisor reviews convinced me that the $59 rate for a Friday night at the Desert Rose Resort, 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. So I booked it. I wasn’t disappointed. The hotel was fantastic and I’ll stay there again if I can get a good price.
After relying on TripAdvisor for so long, I decided in 2008 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 earlier, when my travels were much more extensive than today, because then I’d have contributed much more than the 30+ reviews to date.
Periodically, TripAdivisor updates me about how many folks are reading my reviews. Far and away my most frequently read review is the Pier Park La Quinta in Panama City Beach. It’s been read 749 times since I posted it in March 2011.
After our California trip last Thanksgiving, I posted reviews on the hotels we stayed at and two of them have already been read over 300 times. My review of the Stage Coach Lodge in Monterey has been read 354 times and the review of Gilroy’s Quality Inn and been read 345 times. Closer to home, my review of the Comfort Suites at Jacksonville Airport has been read 305 times in just a few monhs.
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. When prices are in the same range, then amenities, customer service and other factors 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. It’s not unusual to see hotel management reply to TripAdvisor reviews, whether positive or negative.
In the past, I don’t think that too many 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 me!
Check out my TripAdvisor profile and travel map showing the 250+ cities I’ve visited.