TripAdvisor Forums have their place in a travellers armoury, there’s a huge mix of participants from naive first time travellers to seasoned professionals. However like every other forum sometimes you need to take the “advice” with a grain of salt.
TripAdvisor is really all about making money
Are you a Sales Lead or a Member?
TripAdvisor is really all about making money, you as a reader are nothing but a potential sales lead for the services advertised throughout the site. Every time you search for hotel rooms and flights through the site the cookies being baked into your computer are adding to the sites income.
The staff of TripAdvisor are there to keep that well oiled cash machine running and not to ensure the participants in the Forums provide consistent accurate advice.
So with that in mind lets move onto the next contradiction.
Every Forum has Moderators, people who can keep the peace and offer sage advice when needed. In he case of TripAdvisor the two roles are separated, a Destination Expert typically has a high post-count and a high rate of “presence” on the Forums. The moderation seems to be done by deleting posts after they’re reported and very little (if any) feedback is given to the poster.
In my dealings with these Destination Experts I’ve found a mix of genuinely nice people who have the time and energy to help out, and also those who always seem to grind out the say cut-n-paste solutions that perpetuate myths.
Owee over at Owee58.com wrote a great piece about his attempt to become a recognised Destination Expert.
The term Destination Expert is misleading and in most cases an out right lie. A Tripadvisor chosen volunteer is a more accurate term. Please keep this in mind when using their resource.
Owee’s experience highlights the distinctly profit driven motives, and the level of restriction TripAdvisor imposes upon those experts (which also discourages many reputable writers from participating under their “real” names)
What about Good Advice?
I spend a portion of my time on TripAdvisor kicking through the Bargain Travel forum and was surprised when someone posted a link to the great NomadicMatt “12 Things Not to Do When You Travel” article.
The link got posted in a few threads and a number of Destination Experts chimed in saying it was the best advice ever. Terrific, because the 12 tips are genuinely useful for all travellers.
The ones closest to my heart revolve around money, The “Don’t Exchange money at the airport” and “Use a fee free card”. The advice is rock solid and backed up by posts throughout the forums. Over in the Destination Forum for Malaysia we have a Destination Expert giving a good balanced view of costs while a few people are advocating everything from changing money back “at home” – to carrying large amounts of cash which then contradicts the “beware of bag snatchers” mantra!
Not once did an expert or TripAdvisor themselves suggest checking out the article, nor could many others post the link for fear or falling foul of the “posting links to blogs” rule. That rule would make linking to NomadicMatt.com a breach as it’s a very commercial Blog no matter how much we value the content!
I’m not even going to talk about the Monkey post! Well, ok, I will. There was a post about Batu Caves, the writer had asked if the caves were worth it given they had a dislike of monkeys. Fair question, I’m not a fan of them myself, and while some people tried to balance up the “value” of the attraction versus the population of monkeys others started talking about all the rabies travellers would get while being bitten.
Yes, monkeys can bite. No, monkeys don’t bite randomly
Once again there’s no consistency, and once again not even Destination Experts could agree!
Where does that leave us?
When you use TripAdvisor do so with an open mind. Don’t let some views dissuade you from accessing what is still a marvellous resource, but always be aware of the pitfalls.
Opinionated Destination Experts, False Reviews and people willing to “work the system” to make a buck combined with he profit motive of the TripAdvisor company mean that like Professional Travel Bloggers you need to keep your wits about you.