Sheila Gallant-Halloran

Made-to-measure travel; please, go away! :-)

Only a spider trusts the web…

[tweetmeme] The vast majority of my new clients are internet savvy. Many of them are social media junkies. A number of them are very well-travelled folks, and they are quite used to researching their own trips. But something happens – life gets busy, the mass of info gets overwhelming, and they just don’t have time to take the break they so desperately need. A trusted friend gives them my card, or they find me on the internet… and they call. But they still have a healthy sceptism that I can provide any value. I love building these relationships! And the first message I give them is… only a spider trusts the web!

Of course, you CAN book your own trip. Just as you CAN sell you own home, take your own wedding photos, and do your own accupuncture :-). You can scan the web. You can ask your Aunt Martha how she’d do it. You can amass a stockpile of information about “how to” do accupuncture, say. But, unless that’s your trade, it’s going to take a lot of effort, a lot of luck, and a lot of reliance on the advice of amateurs to get the job done. And there’s quite the risk of getting the job done wrong.

If you rely on your effort, luck, and the advice of amateurs to book your vacation, you’re sticking yourself with needles. Or asking Aunt Martha to stick you with them. (ouch!)

Your vacation dollars and hours are precious commodities. It’s a simple fact that I have knowledge, experience and resources that you, and Aunt Martha, do not. Travel is my chosen career. It’s not my hobby. I’m passionate about it. And while I certainly scan consumer rating sites to see what information the Aunt Marthas of the world are reading and putting out there, I do not rely on that information in making my recommendations. I take it in, surely, and “put it in the mix,” just as I would encourage you to do. But, consumer sites, or user-generated sites, do not give unbiased and objective information. I do.

When I’m recommending a holiday, or a particular hotel, for example, I review my client’s previous experiences. I consider that against my own personal experience, as well as that of my travel agent colleagues. I review travel industry reports, and ratings given by travel journalists. I rely on the advice of those who are travel savvy, those who rate hotels according to objective criteria, and those who are not being paid to give a positive review.

When consumer sites, or user-generated sites, are recommending hotels, “put it in the mix” – but, consider the source. Here are some things for you to think about:

1. Transparency, openness, and disclosure are good. But, not all info is good info.

2. There is little (or no) oversight on the veracity/ quality/ and quantity of reviews posted on consumer sites. There are no objective criteria being used in ratings.

3. Everything is subjective, and everyone has an opinion. If you give Aunt Martha a bullhorn, she will use it. Occasionally, Aunt Martha will speak a kernel of truth, but her every utterance is not gospel.

4. There is a tendency for reviews on consumer sites to be extreme…. overly positive, and overly negative. The vast majority of people with good experiences will not bother to post anything at all.

5. Posters are faceless. Do you know anyone who has ever posted a review on a consumer rating site? Odds are you don’t. And if you do, would you ever loan that person a large sum of cash? Would you pass Aunt Martha your vacation funds and say “invest as you see fit?”

6. Did that last review sound like it was written by Aunt Martha? Hard to tell? It shouldn’t be, right? Aunt Martha never travels. She just visited Sleazoid XYZ Hotel, and was p.o.’ed that she didn’t get a 5* hotel, even though she only paid 2* prices. She’s got a bullhorn.

7. Did that last review sound like it was written by the GM of Sleazoid XYZ Hotel? Hard to tell? It shouldn’t be, right? He’s got a bullhorn too. The GM posted a 5* review of his 2* property. When he was done, he went to his 5* competitor properties and gave them some 2* reviews.

8. When faceless reviewers post negative reviews, hotels have little recourse. They can either remain silent (stay above the fray) or engage in debate (jump in the mud). Reputations are hard earned. Defamation is easy.

9. Consumer sites are rarely not-for-profit sites. They don’t exist for the sole purpose of giving you unbiased information. They are businesses, have sponsors, and sell advertising. They may recommend hotels, and then drive you to a booking engine. Open your eyes, and pay attention to linkages.

So – take all the information in, “put it in the mix,” and don’t stick yourself with needles!

And remember: only a spider trusts the web… trust your personal travel counsellor instead!


June 23, 2010 - Posted by | Lush LIfe Top Posts, Lush Life Travel TIps & Advice, Lush Life Value - Why Use a Travel Advisor

1 Comment »

  1. Interesting group defamation suit against TripAdvisor…

    Comment by Sheila Gallant-Halloran | September 10, 2010 | Reply

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