for the independent traveler by independent travelers

Forums and hotel reviews – reading between the lines

Posted by dan on November 24, 2010

No opinion is absolutely objective – and I am not talking about obviously biased ones. If nothing else, it all comes down to personal taste and the experiences one had during a trip. A hotel room – strikingly modern in the style of Karim Rashid, with neon green walls, pink furniture and absurdly contemporary design – might make one rave, but others would be put off to say the least. The experiences one has during a trip depend on many factors, including expectations, interpersonal communication skills, instinctive sympathy and pure luck. So the more opinion we can have, the better picture we can make. Reviews on the popular travel sites can be a good resource, but you have to be aware of a few things.

As a common practice in statistics, disregard the best and the worst reviews. There might be fake reviews either by the hotel to boost its rating or by unethical competitors to drag it down. I have recently noticed a very bad review about a hotel which has hundreds of reviews – virtually all positive. This single one with an unbelievable story just stands out somehow. A bad story can come from a real customer too, who takes revenge for something or blows a small problem out of proportion. I often found that budget hotels have more mixed reviews – I know some of these hotels and they are fine as long as you don’t have unrealistic expectations. Reversely, there can be suspicious reviews raving about a place that receives steadily mediocre-average reviews and giving it the highest score – often these are posted by users who only contributed one or two posts.

There are forums which themselves are biased – a couple of months ago I had a post removed from a site which claims to be impartial and to provide the best advice for travelers. I pointed out that for a 3-night stay booking at a particular hotel would be significantly cheaper directly than through their site – I understand that’s how they make money, but this is not in the best interest of the traveler.

Among the popular travel portals TripAdvisor is a good exception. They don’t make money on bookings, I believe, so they don’t push their hidden agenda. They even have the possibility to compare prices on different booking sites, although it would be better if there was a direct link to the hotels official web-site as well. While many forums are dormant, TripAdvisor is alive and free – the more opinions there are, the better it is for the visitor, the hotels and probably even TripAdvisor which remains to be the leading travel site.

Summerizing it all, forums and reviews are useful – you just have to be able to read between the lines to make informed decisions.

See video of the Semiramis Hotel in Athens by Karim Rashid to decide if this is your style.

About Karim Rashid:

Official Karim Rashid site:


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