Thank goodness for the internet. It puts a tonne of helpful information at our fingertips. If you are looking to travel, the internet is a source of endless reviews from travel professionals, paid influencers, amateur bloggers, and your run-of-the-mill travellers who enjoy leaving reviews for every place they visit. It is all good. But it might not all be true.
Anyone who relies on travel reviews needs to approach them with a keen eye. Travel reviews are absolutely helpful. But no one can offer a completely unbiased review. This suggests that you should read reviews with an understanding that bias exists. And if you know who has written a particular review, you can account for their particular bias.
Let us start with the run-of-the-mill travellers like you and me. We are not professionals. We do not make a living influencing people. Rather, we just feel a responsibility to inform others about our experiences. That’s fine. If this sounds like you, ask yourself a simple question: what would cause you to post a review?
There are two types of run-of-the-mill reviewers: those who post because they are joyously happy and those who post because they are as angry as hornets. Both viewpoints influence what a reviewer writes.
The excessively happy reviewer is likely someone who has a very romantic view of travel. This person is willing to overlook just about anything to have a good time. What is normally rated a 3-star hotel would be a 5-star establishment in their eyes.
On the other end of the scale are the terminally unhappy. These folks could visit a genuine 5-star resort complete with luxury car service and butlers for every room and still walk away completely unhappy. They complain about everything from the colour of the table linens to the fineness of the sand on the beach.
The point of this is to remember that reviews written by run-of-the-mill travellers are influenced by their perceptions of travel. Take any such review you read and temper it with the understanding that it is not wholly accurate. Positive reviews are probably slightly too positive while negative reviews are probably more negative than they should be.
Amateur Travel Bloggers
Next on the travel review food chain is the amateur travel blogger. This is a person who travels more than the run-of-the-mill traveller but doesn’t do so professionally. They write blogs whenever they travel for the express purpose of keeping their friends and family informed. They just so happen to have a pretty good-sized audience.
If we could compare travel reviews to online gambling, amateur travel bloggers would be like online casino operators. They are purposely trying to present a point of view that appeals to their audience. This is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s good. The amateur travel blogger speaks the language that their audience understands.
By way of comparison, the run-of-the-mill traveller is like the online gambling affiliate. Their reviews are no different than the dozens of online slot reviews offered by the affiliate site. They are not intended to reach anyone in particular. They are just general reviews for general consumption.
The difference here should be obvious. General travel reviews do not tell you much. They only tell you whether or not the traveller was satisfied or unsatisfied. On the other hand, blogs from amateur travellers tend to be a bit more in-depth. They talk about things that the traveller genuinely appreciates. Often times, they also include tips for anyone planning to travel to the same destination.
Again, remember that the amateur travel blogger still has a bias. They are writing to a particular audience. They are speaking to subjects they want to know about while avoiding what they don’t care to hear about. This is simply to say that you might not be getting the whole story from such reviews.
It is hard to believe that there are people who make a good living working as paid influencers. But that’s the internet age for you. Nonetheless, it is fairly common for paid influencers to visit exotic locations they can feature in their videos and podcasts. Take everything they say with a grain of salt. No, take everything they say with a pound of salt.
Influencers do what they do to make money. In some cases, they don’t even care about the destination itself. They are not travelling because they love to travel or they are passionate about the destination in question. They travel because there is money in it for them.
Also, consider the fact that a number of influencers in recent years have been exposed as frauds. They post about destinations they have never visited. How do they get the pictures? With a combination of green screen and photo manipulation software. They post pictures of themselves in some exotic location when, in fact, the pictures were taken in their living rooms.
Last up are travel professionals. For purposes of clarification, they are also known as travel agents and travel planners. They travel largely because it is their business. That said, it is fair to say that most travel professionals are in their chosen profession because they are passionate about travel. Their reviews tend to be the most informative and trustworthy.
Yes, travel professionals write reviews with a bias. They are trying to earn your business. At the same time, they realise that their business depends on customers being happy. So they tend to go out of their way to be as truthful and accurate as possible. They try to turn over every rock and uncover every secret in order to give their clients as much information as possible.
Reading travel reviews with a keen eye is all about understanding bias. Next time you read a review, consider who wrote it. Then consider the bias that likely influenced the writer. If you can see the writer’s perspective, you can separate good information from bad.
Always remember that no travel review is 100% accurate. What a reviewer writes is heavily influenced by their emotional response to the experience they had. Your job is to glean relevant information without allowing that emotional response to determine what is truth and what is fiction.