TripAdvisor is arguably the largest travel platform throughout the world, with over 315 million users, or as they like to be called, reviewers. The platform provides users with many options regarding recommended restaurants, hotels, day trips, flights, and you can even post a question to the forum. Hotels and restaurants are the websites main focus and allow guests to post recommendations as well as reviews of their experience, at no cost, and it is more than likely you will end up on TripAdvisor whilst planning that escape from reality.

TripAdvisor prides itself on allowing users to basically run the site, monitoring activity, and only acting when necessary. Users communicate with one another, post questions or answers, try to get the best deals, all whilst completely oblivious to what occurs behind closed doors.

The following are 10 things TripAdvisor does not reveal to travelers.

20 False Advertising

“The World’s most trusted travel site”. Six words TripAdvisor prided itself on after their launch in 2000, however amid several lawsuits spanning across multiple countries, 13 years later “trusted” and “honest” were ever so quietly removed from all TripAdvisor’s marketing campaigns. The world largest travel platform now has the slogan “World’s largest travel site”. This is not information which is highly relevant to booking a restaurant or hotel, as the site runs off reviews from other users, and will likely not turn you off using this website for recommendations, but it can be seen as false advertising upon start-up centered around the content presented.

19 Reputation management

As mentioned, TripAdvisor, much like restaurants and hotels found on the platform, runoff reviews, also known as reputation management. Not surprisingly, some bright spark came up with the idea of a reputation management company, whereby individuals or companies are hired by a particular restaurant or hotel to create fake reviews, ultimately restoring faith in the business for customers or guests. While these fake reviews are highly sophisticated and trying to pick them is trying to pick a needle out from a haystack, unfortunately, they do exist.

Not only are these people hired to post positive reviews for the business, but they can also be used to interfere with the reputation of other, perhaps, rival, restaurants, cafés, and hotels. The most famous example of this was when a fake restaurant sky-rocketed to the number 1 restaurant ratings, all thanks to posts and reviews from an Italian magazine.

18 Waste of time?

Despite the antics of reputation management posts, the majority of content posted to TripAdvisor for whatever reason, whether it be a review, recommendation, question or answer, is honest. But the question is; will it help you? TripAdvisor cannot decide what is right for you and your travel needs, so it is important to not get sidetracked whilst searching for that perfect meal or hotel…or flight. Some users post frequently after dining out or returning from a vacation, and some only post after a disappointing experience, so just be sure to weigh up the positive and negative reviews prior to making a decision, as TripAdvisor cannot filter all of the reviews.

17 VIP treatment

Most innocent TripAdvisor users may not be acutely aware of the way hotels can be treated if they splash the cash. Despite reviews, star ratings and other filters available on the website, TripAdvisor’s Business Listing package overrides these filters. Regardless of the users’ preferences for a hotel, the Business Listing package still allows the hotel to be seen at the beginning of every page on the search. It is designed to increase visibility and increase access to possible traffic. While this method works for hotels and most definitely TripAdvisor, it does not necessarily have a negative impact on users, rather more of a feeling of frustration.

16 Take my money

Further to the Business Listing package, hotels cannot request their property, or properties, be removed from the TripAdvisor website without it. There is a hefty cost involved in purchasing the package, but unless hotels fork out the cash, the TripAdvisor administration deletes the hotels’ contact information, so users must utilise other platforms to gain the property’s information.

15 Red flags

We can all agree that some hotels and most small businesses, restaurants and other eateries are independently owned, as appose to being part of a chain. Quite obviously, it is not ideal for any business or product to receive negative reviews, however, if restaurants or hotels receive fake negative reviews, or acquire a ‘red-flag’ status from TripAdvisor, the only alternative is to take the “World’s largest travel site” to court. The only problem with this is that many of these small independent businesses do not have the resources, especially financially, to take on powers such as TripAdvisor.

14 Tours and activities

Similar to the business Listing package for hotels, Viator deals with activities and tours which are listed and are booked through TripAdvisor. Since it was purchased in 2014, Viator has monitored the tours and activities section and receive a 20-30% commission from companies listed Viator. Basically, TripAdvisor is marketing its own business listings before companies whose tours and activities may have better reviews or ratings. Again, it is all about the money and innocent users of the platform are completely unaware of the truth.

13 Forget it!

Even-though TripAdvisor promotes direct bookings through its website, it is not liable for any problems that occur during or after the booking process. What’s more, is that for tour and activity bookings, users are taken directly to the Viator booking system, and not the actual tour company website. What makes the decision difficult, is if the best price is found on TripAdvisor. Now you must weigh up whether the price difference is worth the risk of minimal customer support or if you want to pay a little extra for the comfort of support. Long story short, when booking a hotel, restaurant, activity or tour, be sure to look around at different options if you want to support if, god forbid, anything was to go wrong.

12 B2B tool

What most people do not realize, is that TripAdvisor was initially set up as a B2B platform. Yeah, there were reviews and ratings, but the original purpose of TripAdvisor was a B2B tool. Once users, for the lack of a better term, took over the website, its main purpose rapidly progressed to more of a ‘community’ where users exchanged personal experiences. Be that as it may, if there was such a quick evolution from B2B to a more community-based experience, there is no reason other than financial, why TripAdvisor should still be supporting monetarily based listings, instead of honest and educated experiences.

11 Quality Control

As mentioned, TripAdvisor is mainly run by users within its community, so there is very little supervision and filtering by website admin, however, TripAdvisor would like us to believe quite the contrary. Customer experience is everything for a business, and there is always a mixed bag of reviews, no matter where you look. From ‘one-hit wonders’, who create an account for that one terrible experience, to frequent posters, it can all get a little intimidating on what to believe. Seeing as admin have very lenient quality control, it is important that you take it upon yourself to gain an informed opinion and act accordingly.

TripAdvisor, like many other successful businesses, will not tell its users about changes or the way it operates with subsidiaries to provide ‘recommendations’, as seen in the above points. Over-time, however, people have ironed out some aspects of TripAdvisor which they have kindly made an open secret.

10 Gaming the system

It is no secret that hotels and restaurants thrive off positive reviews. There have been many cases where TripAdvisor has such an influence over the traffic of a business, that they begin to offer discounts and free stuff for simply completing a review. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, maybe. Yes, some hotels and restaurants offer a free glass of wine or a discount on your stay or meal, but your review is carefully monitored by the respective management to make sure your review leaves their business in a good light. This can be taken as ‘gaming’ the system, giving you incentives to post a positive review, even if it is somewhat of a lie.

9 Democratic society?

Quality, not quantity. This is the mindset TripAdvisor must attain in order to reduce the number of fake reviews on its website. Each vote users post, whether it be positive or negative, TripAdvisor count as equal. On the other hand, if TripAdvisor employed on a ‘pay-per review’ scheme, or even somehow partnered with independent contractors to post reviews and cast votes, the number of fake reviews would decrease dramatically. To be able to keep up with the demand and increased popularity of the site in the future, legitimacy must be the issue that is first and foremost attend to.

8 Unreasonable post removal

There have been several reports centered around reviews and posts with a negative stand-point being deleted by the TripAdvisor admin. We all know that a business does not want negative reviews, and so it is no secret that some are deleted for no apparent reason. Moreover, warnings for properties where unfortunate events may have occurred, such as an attack or even worse, are deleted from the platform. Thankfully, the American Federal Trade Commission is fully aware of the situation and are currently investigating TripAdvisor’s business practices.

7 Subjective

Reviews are subjective and it is very difficult to decide, solely from reading reviews, what your opinion is. TripAdvisor is the celebration of consumer supremacy, as well as the right for opinions to be heard, and no matter good, bad or ugly, all given equal weight. Because every individual is unique, every review will be subjective to that person’s preferences. It is important to note this and weigh up the positive and negative reviews for a more informed opinion.

6 Picking and choosing

TripAdvisor picks and chooses what reviews and posts it deletes, and which ones it leaves up on the forums. This is not the right way to operate and leaves restauranteurs and hoteliers in a highly vulnerable position. One example is the Charlton House Spa Hotel in Somerset, UK. One reviewer went so far as to compare this hotel to Faulty Towers, so the hotel management contacted TripAdvisor to try and remove this post. TripAdvisor responded by apparently sending threatening emails and letters, what management has dubbed ‘bullying’. It only seems fit that business owners have a similar power to the TripAdvisor admin.

5 Disregard rankings

It is no secret from reading this article that in order to personalize your hotel or restaurant search, it would be wise to let your budget do the talking. You now know that businesses pay TripAdvisor to be on the top of any search page, so instead of searching for hotels by star ratings and rankings, place a price or amenities filter on the search. There is no guarantee that this will rid of the annoying ads and Business Listing package businesses, but it will certainly go a long way in helping you see what YOU want to see.

4 Be wary of who you listen to

Being actively aware of who posts reviews is very important to gain some informed knowledge. It is well-known that TripAdvisor allows anyone to make an account and post, so it is recommended to simply ignore users with less than 20 reviews, or happen to reside in the same city as you are looking in to. Additionally, you will want to make sure the user has a legitimate profile photo.

3 Objective

For unprejudiced or neutral information, do not log in to your account (if you have one), and be sure to clear your history on a regular basis. It is now an open secret that business can pay TripAdvisor for the privilege of appearing on most, if not all searches, in their respective industry. In light of this, you, the users, best interests are not catered for if you keep your cache and log in to your account. This may not reduce 100% of the businesses who have paid, but it will certainly make a difference in the target marketing by TripAdvisor.

2 Shop around

Now whilst this point is not directly about TripAdvisor, it is a combination of all 18 of the above points. Shop around. Simple as that. TripAdvisor may be the world’s largest travel site, but this does not mean much if what you want to search turns out to be businesses who have paid to be first, and it is not your exact search. Just to be sure that you are not only getting the best deal possible but that the hotels and restaurants listed on TripAdvisor are in fact the ones best suit your requirements.

1 Overall advice

Much like the previous point, there have been many aspects centered around TripAdvisor which have been ironed out since it began in 2000. From fake reviews to the Business Listings package and inconsistent filtering of posts, in the end, it is up to the user to do their research and shop around, because TripAdvisor is not the only website doing this. It is simply the largest platform of its kind, therefore affecting a larger mass of people. All in all, TripAdvisor does offer personalized suggestions with regards to restaurants, hotels, activities, and tours, however just be careful what you read.