Crowdsourced Travel Reviews – The Hotels Certainly Hate Them – But Travel Book Publishers Too?

Certainly, without a doubt, we all hate it when we have a bad travel experience – an airline that handles a flight delay incompetently, a hotel that is carelessly managed and staffed by untrained hands – it’s all quite terrible for as long as we go through it. But what about the way we feel about it when we come back home and regale our friends and family with how incompetent people can be? It’s an oddly entertaining thing, and most listeners are interested in your story right away when you have a bad travel experience to share. In fact, this weakness we all have for gossip about bad travel experiences could actually explain the blockbuster popularity of websites like TripAdvisor and FlightsfromHell that specialize in morbid travel reviews.

Have you read some of the hilarious travel reviews on TripAvisor that throw wide open the doors to the truth about what even some reputed hotels can be like around the world? The inventive phrases reviewers think of to describe how disgraceful the hotels are that they stayed in are often real genius. “Cradle of filth” is how one traveler describes her bed in her hotel room; another woman says on TripAdvisor that her bed made her think of her own grave (at a hotel in England). There is even an insurance company called TravelGuard that gives prizes to the travel reviews that will tell the worst story ever.

In an industry that profits from bandying bad travel reviews about, this summer season may turned out to be slim pickings. Flights aren’t getting delayed as much as they used to for one thing. A flight that gets you there on time somehow doesn’t lend itself to nasty reviews. When you tell someone about an overcrowded flight, trash in the seat pocket from the last trip, and rude stewardesses, it doesn’t quite earn you that much of a reaction when the flight isn’t delayed.

The travel industry though complains that many of these stories are probably made up; and often by the competition. There has been article after article in the press quoting how hotel owners wonder about how they might deal with the raging venom they see in travel reviews on the Internet that describe their services. Websites publishing crowd sourced travel reviews like TripAdvisor and even Oyster.com, a new entry, have earned the ire not just of the services they run down – they are being dismissed as unprofessional by the established travel publication companies as well – for not being written by accredited professional travel writers.

But can travel reviews on TripAdvisor really be manipulated? Certainly, a few people do try to game any system by signing up under different names and inserting bogus bad reviews; but the websites do have filters that guard the system from too many sign-ups from one computer or IP address, and no one person could possibly hope to generate enough bad reviews to balance thousands of happy customers (if there are any) out. The crowd sourced travel reviews business is an incredibly vibrant one, and it looks like it is the future. The travel businesses that are affected of course, would like to see this never come to pass.