Online reviews have long been an integral part of the hospitality industry, featuring prominently in many consumers’ restaurant and hotel selections. A lot of speculation about whether reviews are real or planted by the owners of the establishments themselves led to a move toward verifying reviewer identities. Beyond that, no one has tried to quantify, categorize or authenticate reviewers. Sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even travel booking sites should take note – the review industry is long overdue for a shift toward credibility and measurability.
To date, reviewers have always been scored on the volume of their reviews instead of on attitude or quality. Why change that now? It’s as simple as the old adage, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” If a person who is used to traveling in luxury is calling a hotel a dump, it might actually be a perfectly fine mid-range hotel. Likewise, a budget traveler describing a ramshackle hotel next to the interstate as clean and modern might give the wrong impression if my goal is a luxe weekend getaway.
There is no way for me to know someone’s standards, preferences or attitude just by reading their review. To find that kind of information, I have to read several of their reviews to get a feel for kind of person they are. Suddenly instead of trying to figure out if a hotel meets my needs, I’m spending time trying to figure out if a review is from someone whose advice I should take. It’s a distraction and a time drain.
It is time for someone to develop something like a match.com tool to rank and sort reviewers. There needs to be some sort of personality profile of reviewers so that a user can see reviews from people whose expectations and experiences are most similar to their own without having to sort through a ton of reviews that are irrelevant to them or from people who clearly have different travel styles, tastes, or preferences.
Not convinced there’s a need for a better process? Read the reviews of just about any place, and I can guarantee you will find one or several reviews that open with, “after reading previous negative reviews, I was worried, but…”
Relying on my friends on Facebook or Twitter for advice works because I know what kind of people they are. That is great for when I want a review of something local or familiar, but it isn’t an acceptable solution when I’m trying to find a hotel for my only visit to place few, if any, of them have been. The latter is a typical situation where the reviews are the most needed and the most difficult to sift through.
Writers need to establish credibility in a short character-limited space, but readers would benefit from an illustration of how each singular review fits in the overall pattern of that writer’s experiences and reviews. Let’s face it, some people are just curmudgeons, and some are just overly enthusiastic about all things in life. If someone consistently complains about everything they review, every review they write should indicate that. At the opposite extreme, Susie Q Sunshine, who never has anything bad to say should indicate that her reviews are always favorable. At the dawn of the age of big data as a predictor for everything, who will be the first to deploy it as a tool to help me quickly identify the overall attitude of a stranger?
Want an even simpler solution to this issue? Make every reviewer post a photo of their own bedroom at home. One look at the room they do most of their sleeping in would quickly tell me everything I need to know about their taste, personality and expectations. I took the liberty of throwing mine on here, just so I can take credit for starting the trend later. Hastily made bed aside, my favorite touches in my own room are my color-changing LED bulbs in the nightstand lamps (Philips Hue, colors and timers controllable by an app), and the wool blanket at the foot of the bed that I purchased from Geysir while visiting Iceland. Future postings about both of those things to follow, I’m sure.