Since it began TA has been a sensational means of finding unique and interesting places. We have relied on it extensively, and often with very good results. On occasion, we have found the reviews off the mark and have shared our thoughts with the community. That is precisely the logic behind the concept -- the truth will come out over time. Our recent trip to Maui (Hawaii), following on a February trip to Disney World, have put our reliance on Trip Advisor into question. The aggressive over-cultivation of customers appears to be skewing the ratings in a way that we have not seen in other places. In Sweden, for example, the ratings seem quite reliable and often very insightful. The gushing reports on Maui and, to a lesser extent, in Florida, lessened the utilities of Trip Advisor. In several instances, the ratings were puzzling. In others, particularly with a couple of restaurants, they were downright misleading. Trip Advisor succeeds only if there is a high level of confidence in the reporting and rating.
In the case of Maui, I have no idea if the aggressive solicitation of positive reviews is the culprit or if there are other manipulations underway. Perhaps everything in Maui is simply excellent and outstanding, and it is my critical faculties that are failing. After a particularly unappealing meal -- at a location recommended by 78% of clients -- we re-read the reviews. They were simply inaccurate. The restaurant was a third-rate eatery and did not even have a restroom on the premises, a fact that most of the other reviews failed to mention.
So, on our next trip to Maui (and with warnings to all friends who travel down there), we will advise them not to count on the TripAdvisor ratings. We felt the same way about Florida. Maybe it is time to revisit the Trip Advisor algorithms to see if there is a way to better evaluate the utility of reviews.
My real concern, as a long-time user and frequent contributor, is that I can see the rapid decline of TripAdvisor if this kind of experience is replicated. We bought a locally produced e-guide book to Maui (Maui Revealed), and the ratings and comments were much, much better and more reliable than Trip Advisor.