TripAdvisor Reviews in the Mass Media

Sometimes I have trouble sleeping. When insomnia strikes, I have found that watching a few consecutive episodes of a television program that follows the same basic episodic structure can work wonders. As far as genres go, reality shows seem to do the trick more quickly than drama. Having cycled through the offerings on Hulu available for Chopped and Project Runway, I recently found a new program: Hotel Impossible.

This series is about a consultant who visits hotels, and who tells hoteliers concerned about the state of their business what they can do to improve their property. Here is the program’s description from Hulu:

Anthony Melchiorri, a no-nonsense hotel “fixer” tries to help turn struggling hotels around. Each episode features a hotel fighting for its life. Can Anthony Melchiorri revamp the staff and transform the hotel?

What I find fascinating is that point in the episode when Anthony asks the hotel owners “What are customers’ impressions of your hotel?” Without fail, every time, the hotel owners appear be completely oblivious to the existence of online reviews. Anthony then pulls up on his tablet several online reviews of their property, and reads aloud excerpts from TripAdvisor to the hotel owners.

TripAdvisor has been in existence since 2000. Are we supposed to believe that now, 14 years later, there are hotel owners who don’t think about looking at online reviews of their properties to find out about customer’s impressions? Seriously? (Although it’s likely that this speaks more to the hokeyness of so-called “reality” television than to actual hotel management practices… but who knows?)

Actually, in my own research — and in other research I’ve read on the topic – I’ve found that only around 7-13% of reviews are followed up from a post by the business. Obviously, not all businesses have the human resources to respond to reviews. Especially smaller businesses. But surely all businesses are at least aware of online reviews. Because these days, just about everywhere we turn, in just about every corner of the world, we can see signs for TripAdvisor or Yelp.

TripAdvisor sign in Bali, Indonesia
TripAdvisor sign in Bali, Indonesia

Btw, speaking of Hulu, a few weeks ago, I watched an episode of Modern Family, where the Pritchett-Dunphy clan traveled to Australia. TripAdvisor is mentioned by one of the characters in this episode of the popular sitcom, showing just how embedded this phenomenon has become in the fabric of mainstream.

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