Q – I’ve noticed that and other professional sites seem to take a dim view of TripAdvisor. I like to book my own hotels for business and pleasure but I know their reviews are often way off the mark. Does your staff use TA and, if so, how do you get the most out of it? I’m really curious as I just don’t know of any alternatives. How, for instance, would I really be able to learn the truth about the three best properties on St. Lucia without TripAdvisor? Love this site but wish you’d have more about hotels and less about cruises and airlines.

A – You are correct, TripAdvisor is immensely popular. It has 50 million visitors per month on its sites in 30 countries. That is the epitome of travel clout. TripAdvisor comments can lead to hotel closings or sudden bursts of new business. The company is now operational  in China at  Expedia is spinning off TripAdvisor and it will shortly become a publicly-traded compamny. also owns, and It is a huge media corporation with 18 seperate travel brands virtually allof which are internet-based.

To answer you directly, we are not aware of any serious travel professional or journalist who takes the opinions, reviews, hatchet jobs or blatant self-promotion on TripAdvisor seriously. We would never pass on information gathered from that source to clients or to traveltruth visitors. That is not to say that you can’t dig up valuable information on the site.  The company claims that there are currently 50 million “reviews and opinions” that can be accessed. But exactly who is writing them? Clearly, hotel executives are upset enough with some of the inaccuracies to begin posting in defense of their properties.

One of the best ways to use the  feedback  on TripAdvisor is to look for comments by the General Managers of the hotels mentioned. We are seeing this more and more and this presents an opportunity originally identified by Wendy Perrin in Conde Nast Traveler. She recommends you look over a posting from the GM at the property you plan to book. You now have the General Manager’s  e-mail address, often their private e-mail address. Send them a note and explain how much you enjoyed their post. Ask them to assist with your reservation. You might even want to ask if an upgrade will be possible. They may well be concerned enough about your next posting on TravelAdvisor to really look after you.

Which brings us to your most important question. How do you really get honest information about the hotels you are considering. Where on the web can you go? The answer is, up to this point, nowhere. Every hotel site we’ve seen accepts advertising from hotels and avoids hard-hitting specifics. The only place you will really know about the relative quality of a hotel, anywhere in the world, is to use a travel consultant who has access to the ABC Reports, a subscription to regularly updated reviews of every major worldwide hotel. The ABC Reports are written by professional hotel inspectors for the use of travel agents. There is no advertising and the evaluations are specific and professional. They are very specific and are the only truly reliable reviews we’ve seen. Hotels do not know they are being inspected and the company does not accept advertising. You need to work with a travel agent who will supply you with these reports before you make a hotel decision. Agents normally do not charge for this service.   

Finally, if you want to explore tripadvisor in a bit more detail, you may want to visit this, no-holds barred attack on their alleged practices.