How Trustworthy Are Travel Reviews?

Everyone is reviewing everything, and it’s common to check online ratings of hotels, resorts, attractions, and even restaurants before making a reservation. Despite the good or bad reviews, the accuracy is relatively subjective. Some dubious methods have also surfaced to build up an online profile with good reviews to make them more appealing and competitive.

The main questions remain, however: Are all these reviews trustworthy? Which ones are real or fake? It’s hard to give a definitive

Who writes online reviews?

They’re visitors and guests who have received services, or frequented establishments. Why are some so compelled to leave reviews? Is it because everyone asks for them? The simplest answer may be due to an extraordinary experience or the worst nightmare endured.

Sites such as Priceline,, and Travelocity only allow verified guest ratings, while anyone who wants to leave a review on TripAdvisor, genuine or not, can do so upon agreeing to their terms and conditions. Though these reviews site can be trusted, it’s also recommended to take the reviews with caution. Many of them are subjective, and some travelers may write one that slams a hotel for insignificant issues. For example, the cleaning lady forgot to leave a new bar of soap on the sink, or the TV didn’t provide English-speaking channels. Read reviews carefully and focus on the relevant points, disregarding trivial comments.

Why are reviews important?

Reviews give a customer a good idea about what might be expected. Great reviews can also reward great establishments and, in some cases, give them the exposure they want. Bad reviews can also help businesses find ways to improve their services, but also warn travelers to beware.


To test if the slew of negative reviews about Spirit Airlines were true, we decided to book a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to Denver. What we experienced mirrored what we had read online from previous passengers, and we found that they were totally justified.

 The dark side of reviews

Some say reviews help boost a business, while others say they could be used to ruin direct competitors. Unfortunately, there are fishy business owners who utilize online platforms to add fake reviews in order to strengthen their business, going insofar as to hiring a PR firm, using bogus accounts, and asking employees to leave positive reviews.

Computer Science professor Bing Li at the University of Illinois estimated that 30% of online reviews are fake. They can also be difficult for someone to spot. A study at Cornell University utilized algorithms to comb through 800 reviews to find “opinion spam” and succeeded 90% of the time, while the average person doing the same demonstrated a 50-50 chance of being correct (souce:

Other issues of writing fake reviews include people who provide good or bad ratings for payment. It could be for a fantastic review, or one that purposely discredits the services of a competitor. If you don’t believe it, search online to find out who reviews for money. You’ll be surprised by what you find. Is this fair? No, it’s not, but it’s difficult to do anything to stop it.


When you’re reading online reviews, here are a few red flags that hint at those that are fake or questionable:

  • Many words in the text are written in ALL CAPS and have way too many exclamation points!!!!!
  • The content reads unnaturally, or as if it had been written by an experienced marketer or salesperson
  • Multiple reviews have the exact same text but with a different name
  • The language and tone reflect the content on the official homepage
  • A hyperlink appears in the review
  • A review is too long and lacks any substance and focus
  • The reviewer makes comparisons to competitors

What to consider

There’s nothing wrong about leaving online reviews, but there are few things to consider while reading them. First, make sure you read reviews from trusted sources. For example, a senior reviewer on TripAdvisor who has earned a review badge is seen as credible.

Also keep in mind that expectations of a hotel, for example, aren’t the same worldwide. Some travelers may have totally different ideas about what they consider to be perfect or inferior due to their cultural perspectives.

Read a business’s response to a negative review as well. This will give you insight into how the establishment is run. Was the hotel apologetic for poor service and made an effort to fix the issue, or was the answer hostile and accusatory?


Sometimes, the ideal way to get the best reviews is to ask friends and family who have first-hand knowledge. They’ll be sure to tell you the truth about a particular place.

Do the review sites on the Internet provide too much information that leave your head spinning? Send us your comments about your experience.

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1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Thanks for highlighting this I think it’s an increasing concern as there are so many fake reviews around – good tips on how to spot them!

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