TripAdvisor: A Cautionary Tale

July 25, 2016 at 12:00 AM


We spoke with Angie Wahl of All-Star Travel here in Harrisburg. As a travel agent, Angie has lots of great advice for anyone planning vacations. We plan to share advice from Angie on a semi-regular basis as she is the local pro in this area!

Our first feature is all about being smart when booking your travel. Many people turn to websites, such as TripAdvisor, for guidance when planning their travels. Angie advises against that, for several reasons.

Looing to TripAdvisor could actually hinder your travel arrangements. Even though postings on the site are supposed to be truthful and impartial, they are pretty much the exact opposite. It is easy to create reviews that aren’t even real reviews, and sometimes aren’t even reviews about a real place. As an example, an Italian magazine once created a fake hotel and was able to get it top ratings. It could also be a scenario where a hotel has a terrible review because a competing hotel wrote up a review of them on TripAdvisor – meant, of course, to turn would-be guests away from the competition.

Small companies in the travel industry who have had fake negative reviews written about them (and therefore many lose businesses from travelers) have no option to remedy these poor ratings except to take TripAdvisor to court – an option many don’t have for financial reasons.

TripAdvisor also offers listings that businesses can purchase. Businesses that pay for postings are favored – they get better ratings and more internet traffic, regardless of what actual, honest vacationers have posted. TripAdvisor also offers bookings through another company – Viator, which TripAdvisor now owns. Viator offers tours and activities to travelers, and it gets paid by businesses that list on the website – as much as 20-30% commission off sales. Businesses that post on Viator get favorable treatment, even if outside companies actually have better service, ratings, and reviews.

Travelers can actually book their vacations through TripAdvisor, but the site accepts no responsibility whatsoever if travelers have problems during their trip. If something comes up and their reservation isn’t showing up at a hotel, for example, they are simply out of luck, whereas a travel agency would take care of these issues for their clients. 

Because of all the negative experiences people have had with TripAdvisor, the company has actually been sued in various countries. This has caused them to eliminate the words “trusted” and “honest” from their marketing content (without publicizing this fact, of course).

In short, Angie cautions against trusting TripAdvisor reviews and booking vacations through their website. If you need assistance in planning your next trip - whether it's a weekend stay in the cities or a cruise to the Bahamas...



  1. Angie Wahl, All-Star Travel,

Category: Fun Facts

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