A Word on Travel Reviews: Subjective vs. Objective
Anonymous reviews are a point to get information, a good tool, but a bad place to start a search. The resort that is the best possible match to where you are in your life right this minute, your idea of the perfect vacation, along with your budget is not the same as your neighbor. You are unique; each traveler is unique. The most important job of a good travel consultant is learning what is important to you, and what is less important to you. Most travelers, even when splurging, don’t have a truly unlimited budget, so the balance of spending more to get the experience you really want, while not over spending on something that holds no value for you is the art of being a good travel agent. Finding this sweet spot gets easier with each trip we book for a client.
So, what is the problem with travel reviews?
Aside from the problem of fraudulent reviews, it is context that is missing on every online review. If it is your best friend that raves about the newest restaurant, you trust that she is right. Why? Because you know her; you know where she is coming from, and have an understanding of the glasses that she uses every day to peer out into and interact with the world. Not so with anonymous faceless odd named folks with an online presence. Yes even when written with the best of intentions, as they are colored by the author’s perceptions. There is simply no way to remove this filter when you form an opinion of good service, bad service, good food, or bad food. Was it a good view, or a bad view?
Subjective is defined as relating to the way a person experiences things in his or her own mind, own perceptions, and own experiences. This is why one person rates a particular hotel 5 stars and another rates the same hotel only 2 stars. Here are two real world examples:
“We stayed here at the end of a long trip involving a cruise and a land week in Costa Rica… Although it is beautifully situated and is very modern, overall, for a Four Seasons Resort, this is a very disappointing product…None of the open restaurants were air conditioned, and the climate is still warm and sticky, not what you expect on an evening of fine dining in an exclusive resort… There was no tour of the property, and no tour or explanation of our room upon check-in. Meal service tended to be slow. The two beaches are very nice, but the two pools are about what one would expect …There was just nothing special about this property. This is not a property to which I would return.”
“We just got back from a week at the resort. We have never ever experienced this level of service. Perhaps it is the culture of Costa Rica or maybe just this location. We loved every minute. Our suite felt like a tree house. We awoke to howler monkeys every morning. This was just special in every way and we hope to return soon.”
What I can tell you from being there myself is that this property just blew me away. It was immaculate, charming, ideally located if you want to be away from the action, it would indeed be a poor choice if you wanted night life, and lots of shopping. Offering one of the very best beaches in Costa Rica coupled with a magical “can do attitude” that left me with the impression that if I had requested lunch on a pink rowboat in the middle of the bay at 3:00 a.m., with a violinist playing in the background I have no doubt that Chief Concierge Andrea Arroyo would have arranged my dream lunch as easily as if I had requested a glass of water, no ice please. More special touches can be found in the very unique opportunities to interact with the staff. How about making chocolates, or perhaps dining with the Chef in the kitchen? Yes! The pool concierge’s sole job is to stop by with little pleasant surprises throughout the day.
So use the reviews as a pattern, not necessarily as the gospel.
Objective information is easy to come by, yet if you are not asking, or rather researching the right questions, even this information can be misleading.
Let’s assume you are planning your dream honeymoon. You want to go to the Turks and Caicos and limit your options to smaller resort hoping for lots of privacy. So objectively you select properties with fewer than 100 rooms.
You run across Regent Palms, discover it has 72 suites, delight that it was voted one of the top 20 resorts of the Caribbean, the pictures look stunning. It is rated exceptional on Expedia! Trip Advisor fans rave!
How could you go wrong with this resort?
Regent Palms is known for its exceptional large suites with kitchens as well as washers and dryers – -a big draw for families and groups. For this reason I would not recommend this resort to a honeymoon couple seeking seclusion and intimacy, even though this is a stunning resort, and no doubt would make for a wonderful honeymoon, it would not give my mythical couple the best value for their honeymoon dollar. Objectively it hit everything on the dream checklist.
I would recommend a lesser known, yet equally magnificent option, Parrot Cay for my honeymoon couple seeking the ultimate romantic escape. First it is adults only, second it is remote, an absolutely great choice for a couple seeking seclusion, romance, and a dream honeymoon that is perfect in every aspect. Choosing this property would also save my clients money over Regent Palms without sacrificing anything and in fact adding more value to their experience.
Objectively they both look quite similar. Both resorts have around 70 rooms, both properties are rated 5 stars, both are well reviewed; both have similar locations at a similar price point. By choosing a travel consultant that is well versed in the personality of various properties you can not only in increase the value of your travel dollar in this instance you would save over $700!!!