Is TripAdvisor really the best place to find reviews about Morocco tours?
Over the past years, TripAdvisor has become one of the authorities on world travel. Millions of people visit TripAdvisor each month to help find travel advice and reviews.
Most consult TripAdvisor looking to find honest and unbiased reviews of hotels, restaurants, and other travel experiences. Sadly, this reputation isn’t representative of the whole truth. While the website boasts being full of only free voluntary content by real consumers, the millions of profits they company has made must lead us to question the site further.
The mega-site for all things travel, with over 660m reviews, surely has a lot to offer. The sheer quantity of content is almost overwhelming. Over the years they’ve grown from a small website where anyone can post their thoughts on their specific traveling experience to THE reviewing resource when searching for hotels, restaurants, and activities.
The website is extremely powerful, there’s no doubt about it. But, there are a few things that you need to remember when using TripAdvisor for tour reviews.
1. TripAdvisor only reviews day tour companies
According to the guidelines of TripAdvisor, they only review companies that are offering day tours. In theory, TripAdvisor does not allow for “tour companies” who offer multi-day tours to be reviewed on their site. This became evident a number of years ago when they started to delete company profiles and reviews that were about tours of more than a day.
As an example, our company had over 80 five star reviews on TripAdvisor! One day, they all disappeared. When we called TripAdvisor to ask for help or to get a copy of the reviews, we were told, “Those reviews do not belong to you but belong to the people who wrote the reviews.” We asked them if they contacted the reviewers to let them know that they were deleting their reviews and they said they did not.
So, if you’re looking for tours which last more than a day, TripAdvisor is not the ideal place to look, as most of the travel companies listed are day trip providers. Or, they may have listed themselves as day-trip providers in order to stay on TripAdvisor.
2. Some of the reviews are fake
We were talking with a client of ours around 2 years ago, discussing the tourism industry. The impact of TripAdvisor specifically came up. He shared some shocking information with us. His daughter worked for a company that helped clients raise their marketing profile. He mentioned that one of the things that they did was to create fake TripAdvisor reviews for their clients. Wow!
Sadly, this isn’t a stand alone occurrence. The making and posting of fake-reviews has become a whole industry in and of itself. This kind false reporting has even lead to a fake restaurant in Italy becoming the top ranked restaurant in town! Another surprising example of this is when a homeless shelter became ranked as one of the top hotels in the United Kingdom. Even the famously fictional hotel from the Wes Anderson film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, has over 360 reviews! Sometimes these fake reviews take the form of “funny” jokes and pranks. Yet although the presence of fake reviews isn’t encouraged by TripAdvisor, they can continue to misrepresent the reality of certain establishments.
A number of our friends own riads in Morocco. We’ve had major discussions about all of the fake reviews on TripAdvisor. They have given us very specific examples of hotels and riads with fake reviews, so we know that it happens here in Morocco. These fake reviews then skew the results and ranking of all businesses. And sadly, when this happens, there aren’t many options to get back your ranking. In order to understand how fake reviews affect actual hotels, restaurants, etc. that have real reviews, we need to…
3. Understand the ranking system
The final thing to be aware of about TripAdvisor is that they have created their own algorithm for ranking hotels and properties. I do not believe that they have published their ranking system. The key to their system is new reviews, number of reviews and quality of reviews. This is important to know!
Those hotels and restaurants that keep current reviews and ask clients to leave a review on TripAdvisor will most likely rise to the top. Although this might be good for them, it really allows for hotels and restaurants to market themselves on TripAdvisor.
The more that they market TripAdvisor, the more reviews they’ll get from customers. This in turn will make them rank better. Buttons, signs, posters, card, or stickers with TripAdvisor on them works to get more clients to use the site. Rather than working in favor of the client, its main benefactor is TripAdvisor itself.
Another option for businesses within TripAdvisor is to have a free listing or a premium listing. Listing your business on TripAdvisor is free! But, your business will have greater visibility if you opt to pay for a premium business listing package. Simply put, TripAdvisor will place your listing towards the top of search results because you’ve paid.
As a potential client, this makes it harder to know which listings should really be at the top. TripAdvisor targets ideal clients for businesses that pay, putting ads and listings in front of viewers. Yet for those who don’t give in to the TripAdvisor system, their listings suffer.
While this is of benefit for the website and the business that chooses to pay, it leaves smaller places in the dust. The small, excellent, local joint will most likely not do well on TripAdvisor. Often users go to the internet in order to find the smaller, better places to eat or stay. But with the ranking system, this becomes harder and harder.
Another pitfall of the reviewing system is the opportunity for blackmail. From time to time, clients will use a good or bad review on TripAdvisor as leverage towards a free meal/stay or discounts.
On the other hand, there are reports of clients being bribed to leave positive reviews with free products, beverages, meals, or discounts. Since each review is counted equally, quality reviews are given as much weight as poor quality reviews. This in turn leads to more problems in the system.
So, now what?
TripAdvisor is an excellent resource, but it is just that! A resource… Make sure you take your time to do due diligence when are looking for your next morocco tour. Take each review with a grain of salt. Be wary of both ends of the reviewing spectrum.
Even the rankings of contributors to the site are based on the quantity of reviews they’ve posted, not quality. And in the end, the best resource and source of information are real people, who have had real experiences you can count on.
As much as possible, try to read or hear about actual experiences from other travelers. There truly is no substitute for trustworthy information, gained from firsthand experience and contact. With the internet at your fingertips, don’t hesitate to let your research take you farther than TripAdvisor.
There have been a number of times where we’ve offered a few options for accommodations in a certain city. Our staff has a favorite after having seen them in person. However, travelers will often opt towards the riad or hotel that ranks the best on TripAdvisor or has the nicest website.
Ask friends, colleagues, or trusted opinions from those who live in Morocco (or any other destination you’re looking into). Just as you wouldn’t give the same weight to all the advice people give you in person, apply similar standards to your online findings.
Experts in the field should rightfully be credited with more authority than strangers on the internet. So, what do local expats and experts say? What do experienced travelers say, beyond a review forum? Listening to the advice of verified previous travelers, who have a similar mindset and values when it comes to traveling, is one of your best bets.
A little effort can go a long way when it comes to planning your next holiday abroad.