TripAdvisor as a “hotel survey”

I’m slowly digging out of the hole I dug myself with excessive travel over the past four weeks and came across an email from a hotel I stayed at during the European portion of my trip. It was a request to fill out a survey about my stay, an email that many hotels send these days.

The email I received from the hotel asking me to fill out their “survey.”

I try to make a habit out of filling out these surveys – regardless of whether the stay was good or bad – so I clicked on the link. I was quite surprised at what I saw. It sortof looks like a survey page but it also completely looks like a TripAdvisor review page, mostly because that’s exactly what it is.

Apparently TripAdvisor is what passes for a survey now. Who knew??

Submitting a “survey” is actually a TripAdvisor review and the fine print makes it clear that I was actually posting to TripAdvisor, not completing an internal survey for the property. Not that I have anything specifically against TripAdvisor, but I don’t really love the content, the format or using their site so I also don’t contribute to it. And this was the first time I’ve even been prompted to submit a review directly to them as though it was going to the hotel. They didn’t really hide it – the logo is at the top of the “survey” form – but between prompting me with positive reviews from others in the sidebar and positive suggestions for the text fields it is far from a reasonable survey. Expecting to get “clean” data from something like this is rather a dream I’d say.

Maybe it works for them. They are ranked 23/190 in Brussels and they get a lot of comments/reviews so I’m guessing it does. But it also seems a bit misleading to me that they’re calling it a “survey” to help them improve service when that is only a tiny part of what it actually is.

For what its worth, I actually enjoyed the hotel. Nice room, though the bath was a bit strange and the couch against the windows with nice views was great. The location wasn’t bad though I didn’t have much time to explore town. Also, the “free mini-bar” was one soda, two bottles of water (one sparkling, the other not) and one beer. That’s more than many hotels offer but not a huge benefit.

A photo from the room. I liked it for the most part.

They also had issues like the lobby being laid out strange and insufficient staffing at the front desk, a comment that was echoed in some of the TripAdvisor reviews I read once I was prompted to create my own. I’ll definitely consider them again given the price point and the quality of the room, but this experience also has me even more inclined to distrust TripAdvisor. And I was pretty far along on that track already. The cynic in me also wonders who is paying whom to get the data into TripAdvisor as part of this process.

Am I overreacting? Am I too old-school in my views on what surveys and data collection should be about? Is this just the way things are now?

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I am with you, when hotels are encouraging/soliciting the use of a supposedly objective site, it calls into question the objectivity of that site. Especially when the objectivity of said site was questionable at best prior to this.

    1. Seth, your alma mater is at the forefront of why this is happening. A professor at Cornell’s Hotel School did a paper which estimated that the probability of a TripAdvisor-listed property being the consumer’s choice goes up 0.2% for every review it gets. That same paper also said a one-point rise on their five-point scale would equal the same occupancy and market share, but an 11.2% room rate increase.


  2. Just wondering if the linkage is provided by TripAdvisor to property owners, or your hotel is taking advantage of the ‘subit review’ hyperlink to pretend to be a hotel survey. If it is the former case I will be in serious question of TripAdvisor’s objectiveness.

  3. I once read the fine print on a card soliciting reviews for a hotel my cousin worked at. There was something about it that clearly violated TripAdvisor’s terms, and if we’d reported them, they likely would have faced some form of sanctions. (Not at all sure what those would be, though…)

    That was a couple of years ago.

    I’ll say that for me, it’s an extremely useful website. I’ll see photos of the properties, with dates to indicates which are recent, and it’s easy to spot properties with management that doesn’t care, or thieving employees, or just a smelly location.

    What do you use to separate the good hotels from the awful?

  4. A ground transport company has sent me several e-mails requesting I review them on TripAdvisor. They provided a small discount to TripAdvisor and travel forum members when making the reservation. However, if I don’t leave something the first or second “request”, then what makes them think sending more requests is a good idea?

    Do they really want me to post “Driver tended to think lane lines were a whimsical suggestion and proceeded to simultaneously use of two lanes on expressway for 30+ minutes. Definitely appropriate cultural experience for this country which is known for drivers who take the driving laws as a light suggestion, delighting in the fear of their passengers. Thankfully traffic was light. They got us there on time by speeding and the van was clean.”?

  5. I think this is occurring more frequently. Hotels know the value of a good review on TA, however, it seems borderline at best to solicit in this manner. I do use TA as a guide and always eliminate those posts from people who bi*** about some aspect that was totally their own fault or assumption.

  6. The problem with TripAdvisor is that it’s heavily skewed to bad reviews. Most people simply don’t bother to post at all, unless they want to get something off their chest about their stay. That’s one of the many reasons I don’t use it.

    However, I can see that, by actively soliciting reviews from guests, this hotel could be aiming to produce a balance of views which more evenly represents what guests actually think. Also it would act as a survey if the hotel bothers to read all the reports.

  7. I have noticed any number of times that hotels are suggesting I post a review on TripAdvisor and other sites. I don’t know exactly what it means for TripAdvisor’s credibility, but it does mean the hotel is actively interested in what I think, and I think that is reflected at least a bit in the quality of service they provide. A place that craves good reviews and fears bad ones may try a little harder to satisfy the customer than one that doesn’t care.

    In the summer I went to Jordan and spent a night in a remote Bedouin camp. To get there someone at a base staging point radios the camp and after an hour or two someone shows up in a 4WD for a long but incredibly scenic drive out to the tent village where we’re staying. A traditional meal followed by the night spent in a tent or under the stars. Fascinating experience, In the morning, a long drive back to the staging point. Along with the traditional goodbyes: “Be sure to give us a good review on TripAdvisor. Remember, my name is Mohammad.”

    No doubt about it. TripAdvisor’s reach is just about universal now, and I think on balance it’s a good thing, despite some obvious limitations.

  8. What’s your site off choice for hotel reviews? I’ve tried other sites but none seem to have the quantity and currency of reviews that TA does. FT can be good for chain hotels, especially of you want to know what benefits, for example, HH Gold gets you. That said, I tend to look at a general theme and ignore the ranking. I also try to skip over reviewers with only one or a few reviews posted. I guess I should have asked this at your hotel talk at FTU.

  9. 1,736
    readers on my one and only hotel review of a San Antonio hotel which made me very unhappy.Have to think it cost them at least a few bookings.

  10. Interesting. I do use TripAdvisor a lot (although I read it very critically). I’m also a very frequent contributor. But when I write a review, it’s NOT for the purpose of providing feedback to the hotelier – there are other, more appropriate ways of doing that. A TripAdvisor review is written to provide advice to fellow travelers. (So, for example, it’s perfectly fair to warn travelers of drawbacks that are beyond the control of the hotelier – things that would be pointless to mention in a feedback survey. By contrast, I never mention issues that were idiosyncratic, and particular to my own stay, even though these would be fair game for feedback to management.) I’d be concerned that this type of solicitation would yield reviews that are not really appropriate to TripAdvisor’s purpose.

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