Whenever I ask guests how they decided to book with us, whatever else they say they invariably mention Trip Advisor. I would not be surprised if reviews on Trip Advisor are the single most powerful influencer of travel decisions today.
On the whole this a very good thing. The site gives travelers unprecedented access to usually reliable information. Trip Advisor generally rewards good suppliers and punishes bad ones.
Of course this much power inevitably leads to abuses. Suppliers are tempted to post phony reviews—good ones about themselves and bad ones about their competition. (I even heard one can buy reviews from an enterprise in the Philippines at very reasonable rates. I was not tempted.)
Travelers are also tempted to abuse Trip Advisor. It still does not happen very often, but many of us in the travel business have noticed a increasing tendency on the part of travelers to use threats of bad reviews and/or promises of good ones as a lever to get refunds or upgrades.
I try to judge each case on its merits, but the minute Trip Adviser blackmail or bribery comes into the picture, I have a strong inclination to resist.
My reason for this is that I think that Trip Advisor is much too valuable a resource, both for us and for travelers, to allow its trustworthiness to be contaminated by reviews that have purposes other than to help fellow travelers make informed decisions. In the short run buying off bad reviews might seem like good business, but I am convinced that the whole travel business is better off in the long run if all of us who are in the business let the reviews fall where they may. Somehow I think the people who would consider using our services are sophisticated enough to figure out whether a review is accurate or not.
So what do you think? Do you use Trip Advisor to make decisions about your travel? How do you judge the accuracy of reviews?