Tripadvisor: Can I trust it?

What you need to know about Tripadvisor

Gecko Villa is listed on Tripadvisor. We are proud of the positive reviews that guests have left and generally find that the website can offer a good overall impression of a hotel or villa and what guests may expect. But transparency, in our opinion, is not one of the review website's strongpoints. When an owner pays to alter how his property is displayed, this is not made clear to the site visitor. Rates displayed are often not the best available - but rather commissionable rates where Tripadvisor will pocket a percentage of your holiday cost. And as for trust, the exposure of fake reviews on the site, and its own credit card charging practices, do not make for a perfect score.

Can I trust Tripadvisor?


Gecko Villa has an excellent rating - so why this blog post?

- We would like to believe - like many people - that Tripadvisor is a valuable review site with genuine, verified reviews. However, many reviews have been shown to be fake, and no "proof of purchase" is required to leave a review.
- We would like to feel that owners cannot pay to amend their listings. But they can.
- We would like to feel that rates presented for booking properties are the best available, but in fact the rates displayed in their "comparison" tool only shows rates upon which Tripadvisor will make a commission. This means that the "best rates" as displayed are not the best available, which generally are offered only to guests who book directly with the property.
- We would like to feel that Tripadvisor can be trusted with our credit card details. But in our experience, this is not the case.

Fake Reviews on Tripadvisor
The Times of London, in late 2018, claimed that around one in three reviews on Tripadvisor is fake, having commissioned studies into owners buying reviews from third parties, and computer studies of reviews on the site undertaken by  This percentage is a lot more worrying than the occasional - and amusing - escapades of individuals showing how the review system can be seriously doctored. For example, the Daily Mail showed how a run-down homeless centre for men in Glasgow garnered superb, but fake,  reviews - leading to its inclusion in the Top 100 places to stay on Tripadvisor. Then there was the story of the Italian newspaper that "created" a restaurant in Milan called La Scaletta and saw it become the top restaurant in Moniga del Garda, despite the fact that it did not exist. And many will remember London's Top Restaurant on Tripadvisor, The Shed at Dulwich, created in 2017, along with photographs of tempting dishes created with bleach tablets and shaving foam.

Owners Can Pay Tripadvisor to Improve their Listing
Tripadvisor always has an eye on its revenue stream, with money flowing in from advertising from booking sites and from owners who pay Tripadvisor for a "Business Advantage" listing. Owners who pay for these "services" can ensure that their listing highlights a positive review selected by the owner, highlights photos chosen by the owner, displays the property's own website address, and much more besides. The visitor browsing Tripadvisor is not informed that the review page they are looking at has been altered because the owner has paid for such amendments. Did somebody say Transparency?

Booking through Tripadvisor will Cost you a Commission
Visitors to Tripadvisor, for the most part, believe that it is a "comparison shopping" site. A listing might splash a brightly coloured box on the listing page, stating "Like saving money? We search up to 200 sites for the lowest prices." Simply remember that Tripadvisor is being economical with the truth. They will display nightly prices  from a wide variety of online travel agencies or portals, giving the impression of a real-time, genuine comparison. They do not state that a large part of their revenue is generated from advertising by online travel agencies which in turn charge commission if you proceed to book through their sites.  By all means review the prices offered, but then find the property's own website and see what they can offer you. As they will be keen to avoid paying a commission of around 20% to the booking agency, the chances are that they will oblige - especially if you telephone them (a communication means that short-circuits many of the booking agencies' rate parity demands.)

"View Deal" and No Occupancy
No rates available for selected dates might simply mean that no available rooms at the selected property have been found in the inventory of the online travel agencies. It does not mean the hotel has no rooms available - it means there is no room available upon which a commission can be made. Again, just ring the property.

View Deal is another Fear of Missing Out ("FOMO") tactic, where a higher price is slashed through and a "special rate" offered, just for you. Do not be misled. Take such deals with a healthy pinch of salt - and make sure, on any subsequent pages, that the price does not suddenly increase as you proceed through the booking process (think airline booking sites and you will understand.)  It is common practice for a standard price of, say, 120 to be displayed, with this price slashed through and a special price of 100 offered. Click to confirm that price, and as you proceed screen by screen, taxes and other commissions may well be added, resulting in a final cost to you of 140 or more. Again, telephone the property and see what they can offer you. It is not in their interest to turn you down.

Is my credit card data safe with Tripadvisor?
Not in our experience. We were offered a special three month trial of certain  enhancements to our listing, which we could purportedly cancel at any time within the three month period. When we came to cancel in due time, it proved impossible, despite requesting cancellation through five official channels. We, like many other owners, had to resort to cancelling our credit card to avoid the charges. Even then, they continued to try to debit our card, and subsequently wrote to ask us to update our card details in their system so they could charge us. We would not trust them with our card details again, be it for a booking or anything else.