Do you read reviews before booking a hotel or resort? Do you check out what different people say before booking holidays?
How do you decide if the reviews are actually useful to you?
This summer I went to a fabulous hotel in Santorini. I spent days researching which hotel to go to because this holiday was for my husband’s 50th and because if you’re spending money you want to know you’re getting your money’s worth. I read through hundreds of reviews of the many hotels on Santorini. I felt I was becoming an expert at deciding if a review was worthy or not.
But of course you never know for sure until you get there yourself.
Finally, I narrowed the choices down to about three, showed them to my husband, and together we chose one based on several points in reviews as well as reading and rereading the hotel website.
We loved it. We chose well. And much of that was down to the reviews (and the hours I spent reading through them.) Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a standardized system for reviews? Then you could check out the main points that concern you about locations and reviewers wouldn’t feel so lost when trying to say something good or bad or both about a place.
I found several things that most of us already know:
1. You can’t please everybody.
Some people you can never please.
2. Not everyone reads the brochure.
Complaining that the room ‘felt like a cave’ in a hotel that is indeed carved into the side of a volcanic island, reads a bit odd. Especially as many of the hotels have this feature, celebrate it on their websites and show many photos of these rooms.
3. Some people actually think about what would be useful to others when writing a review.
Because our hotel was on the very steep side of the caldera, there were a lot of steps to our white cave rooms. One reviewer thought to mention this–not to complain but to just mention it because not everyone can or wants to cope with a lot of steps for various reasons.
So how do I sort through reviews to make some sense of them?
How to assess hotel reviews
1. Check out the reviewer’s other reviews.
On TripAdvisor and some other sites you can do this. If they are frequent complainers, maybe they’re never happy.
2. Read between the lines.
If the reviewer is complaining that EVERYONE was rude to them, it might have been them and not the staff.
3. Compare to other reviewers.
If no one else complains about staff rudeness at the same time, again, maybe the problem wasn’t the staff.
4. Appreciate that unique situations can happen.
A burst pipe at the same time as a staff shortage on a day when a big event is going on might mean the staff doesn’t get to the pipe as soon as they should. That’s not great and I’d be disappointed as well if I were the customer. But it doesn’t mean your stay will be like that.
5. Keep in mind why you want to go to that area.
If you’re going to that hotel because you want to seclude yourself from the world and only see a few people during the day, then the features of the room and surrounds will be even more important than if you’re going to do lots of wildlife sightseeing and spending a lot of time outside the hotel. Find reviewers with similar needs to you for the most relevant reviews.
6. Ignore the stars.
Seriously. A cumulative rating of stars at the top of the page based on all the different star ratings of the reviewers is not always that accurate. I’ve seen reviews where people have said ‘I would put more stars but it was raining the whole time and we were really disappointed.’ Seriously?! Yes. What they say is more important because that’ll give you a much better idea of the quality of the place.
7. What about fake reviews?
We’ve all heard about how friends (or enemies) of hotels put up fake reviews. Sometimes they’re easy to spot–gushing reviews in the middle of a load of complaints; other times not so easy. This is why reading a lot will help you more than just scanning a small handful.
Sometimes review sites provide the opportunity to ask the reviewer a question. If they mention that ‘there are better places in the area’ but don’t say where, send them a message and ask if they could tell you the places they had in mind. Then you can check out reviews of those places and make the comparisons yourself.
9. Check the date.
A review from five years ago may not accurately reflect the situation today.
10. Make use of Google.
Don’t rely on one website, search around for other independent review sites.
And as a bonus I’ve decided to also add a few tips on writing reviews.
Tips on Writing Hotel Reviews
1. What would you want to know before going to this hotel or resort?
2. Which rooms do you think were best and why? It is very important to add why because it will help people assess if your reasons are important to them too.
3. What was good and bad about your stay? Few reviews can be perfect and it’s more believable if it’s balanced. Remember it’s really helpful to write about the immediate area, not just the hotel/resort.
4. If you had a complaint about it, did you go to the staff? If not, why not? If you did, how did they deal with it?
5. Be brief. Please.
6. Photos are really helpful to describe what you mean.
7. Don’t talk about personal gripes. ‘Our holiday was ruined because it rained the whole time,‘ is not a valid complaint for a hotel review. But a really helpful comment would be: ‘It rained more than usual for that time of year and we discovered that there isn’t much to entertain you in this hotel if you’re stuck inside but we found these X, Y, Z attractions nearby useful.‘
8. Who is this hotel suitable for? Couples? Families? Older generations? Business?
9. What was especially nice about this place?
10. As mentioned in number 3, include information about the local area such as which restaurants or bars were good, and why, or which wildlife parks or other activities were good (or bad) and why. Was there something special about the local town or did you prefer the next town over? Although these comments aren’t specifically about the hotel or resort this info can be an important part of making a decision about which hotel to choose.
I hope this helps! But if you have any other suggestions for either writing reviews on travel sites or assessing how helpful a review can be, please do leave a comment!