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Should we trust travel reviews? - Dunwoody Crier: Our Columnists

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Farmer File Should we trust travel reviews?

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Posted: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 9:54 am

So you’re talking with family and friends about places they’ve been that you might enjoy on your next vacation, resorts, restaurants, hotels, cruises and so on.

You’re doing the word of mouth thing, probably the most effective and least expensive way there is to get other people’s opinions.

A new study shows that now more than ever, people planning trips are making their decisions in large part on what other people say who have “been there, done that.”

The website Travelpulse.com reports that An Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index shows that, “Seventy-five percent of travelers over this past holiday season say they find other travelers reviews trustworthy.”

So what’s that about? Is taking advice via the media of people we don’t know a good way to make a good decision about where to eat, drink, play, and in short, spend our vacation time and more.

We ask because some travel websites are getting reviews of vacation places that may come from bogus sources by fakers. Some people write made-up reviews for money. Are they a small minority or an increasing concern?

I turned to my favorite travel experts, the experienced and savvy agents at HCI Travel on Piedmont Road in Buckhead, specifically to HCI’s President, Joanne Quan.

How much can clients count on other travelers’ reviews of places to play?

“I usually tell people to read carefully all reviews and weigh the information. You must consider who wrote the review and where that person is from (USA or Europe) and if possible how well traveled. A three-star hotel in Europe might be a five-star experience to some people while others would be very unhappy at a three-star hotel.”

I have read that some of the big travel websites have big problems with “fake” reviews. Sometimes even this or that resort may be doing bad reviews on a competitor. Your thoughts on that?

“It may happen and I guess there is no way to really know. I find it more interesting that some hotels watch the reviews very carefully and respond, sometimes challenging the person complaining that they did not even stay at the hotel at the time stated. This might be a case of a competitor writing a false review.

“Hotels that answer complaint/reviews with a canned or patronizing answer I think make the hotel look bad. Responses that genuinely try to answer a complaint win more points.”

So, Joanne, on a related point, suppose a traveler has a bad experience with a hotel. What’s the best way to deal with that?

“The best way to resolve any issue is to bring it to the attention of the hotel immediately. Once you have left the hotel it is very difficult to get anything done.

“Don’t wait until you are checking out to tell them the bathroom light was out the entire stay. Call the front desk immediately and if there is no satisfactory resolution get the manager involved.

“Also, my clients can always call me if they have a problem and I will get the right person involved to bring a resolution.”

One more nugget from that Allianz survey: Lower income Americans are the “least likely to find other travelers reviews trustworthy.”


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