The best way to plan your next vacation is by doing some sleuthing. Websites like Google, Tripadvisor, Booking.com and Expedia offer customer reviews for accommodations, restaurants and tour companies located at your intended travel destination.
Reviews can provide valuable information to help you decide if the business is a good fit for your travel needs. But with some reviews written by artificial intelligence robots that can automate tasks, and others by paid reviewers, sometimes it can be difficult to determine which reviews are trustworthy. Other reviews may be fueled by personal grudges or even intentional saboteurs. The World Economic Forum found that on average 4 percent of reviews on sites like Tripadvisor, Yelp, Trustpilot and Amazon were fake.
For professionals like Shelby Dziwulski, founder and CEO of the Denver-based travel company Authenteco, distinguishing fake reviews from real ones is essential to ensure her clients’ satisfaction. “We have an entire structured checklist and operating procedures for how to read reviews,” she says.
Dziwulski and other travel experts offer the following strategies to do your own travel review sleuthing:
Investigate the reviewer’s profile
One easy way to assess the accuracy of the travel review is to click on the reviewer’s profile. “Most of the time people will have 15 or 20 reviews of the places they’ve been,” Dziwulski says. If a profile has more than 1,000 reviews, then they are probably getting paid or are a bot.
You can also pay attention to the person’s profile picture and name. “If the icon is a generic picture, or if it’s not an actual human being, then that’s a red flag,” says Sahara Rose De Vore, founder and CEO of the Travel Coach Network, a company that connects travelers with travel experts. A generic name, like John Smith, could be an indicator the review is fake, she says.
And don’t forget to check out reviews they have left for other businesses. “If you click on a person and they’ve left 50 reviews in their lifetime and every single one of them is one star, then we don’t trust them,” Dziwulski says. She explains that these “negative Nancys” tend to be overly biased — they’re impossible to satisfy and their reviews reflect their skewed view of the world.
If a person left a mix of four- and five-star reviews and only one negative review, then you may want to pay attention to the issue they had and investigate it. This type of reviewer, Dziwulski says, is a “great source.”