TripAdvisor's Dirtiest Hotels List Raises Questions

Posted Jan 24th 2011 06:20 PMUpdated Feb 11th 2011 11:26 AM



trip advisor dirtiest hotels

TripAdvisor, the popular reader-generated travel review website, released its annual list of America's Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels. ABC's Good Morning America promoted the annoucement by releasing the names of the top three hotels. But a closer look at the ranking calls into question how current or fair the TripAdvisor ratings really are.

The "worst" hotel on its list, The Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., has a TripAdvisor review page that's a virtual torrent of appalled one-star reviews. But in fact, in Pigeon Forge, TripAdvisor's site lists another property, the Family Inns of America West, as being a notch worse than the Grand Resort on its popularity list, at 89 and 88 respectively.

TripAdvisor ranks all its hotels by popularity in each city. Despite the fact it was named America's Dirtiest, in terms of popularity, Grand Resort is only number 88 of 95 in Pigeon Forge, which presumably means that although there are 7 hotels that are potentially dirtier in Pigeon Forge, the Grand Resort is the one that was singled out for public shaming.
How to Detect a Fake TripAdvisor Review

User-generated travel review sites are notoriously unreliable. Learn how to read between the lines of the big travel review sites such as

• Read as many reviews for a each place as you can and throw out the most effusive and most venomous postings, which could have been written either by the proprietors or their competition.

• Post regular reviews of your own on the sites you like. The more honest people post, the more the effect of phony write-ups will be diluted, and the more useful these resources will become.

• If a hotel's management consistently responds to negative reviews, it is probably a promising sign that they are equally as attentive on the premises.

• If an entry reads like it was written by someone with a vested interest (overly ecstatic, wording that reads like a brochure, details that no casual guest would observe), it just might have been.

• Sometimes fake reviews will toss a few minor complaints in to make it seem more legit.

• The more professional a photo looks, the less trustworthy it becomes.

• Always consider the source and account for cultural differences. For example, American tourists often complain about European hotels rooms without air conditioning, but, culturally speaking, AC is not a standard amenity there.

• Just as scientists need lots of data to prove their hypotheses, you can't reach solid conclusions -- either positive or negative -- about hotels with only a few reviews.

• For some destinations with hordes of fans, such as Walt Disney World, read carefully to determine whether the reviewer is delivering a fair appraisal or merely chiming in based on their devotion

• Balance what you read with descriptions from newspapers or guide books, but remember that most publications only publish recommendations. If a place is bad, it won't usually warrant coverage.

A closer look at TripAdvisor's website shows that none of those 7 hotels have been reviewed at all, so there is no comparative data on them.

A TripAdvisor rep explains the discrepancy: "The #1 worst hotel doesn't rank at the bottom of the Popularity Index in its city, as the list is based on candid traveler feedback specifically rating the category of hotel cleanliness from 1-5 (1 being lowest, 5 highest) in the hotel review form on the site. So, the top 10 dirtiest hotels had the very lowest cleanliness ratings on TripAdvisor in 2010."

TripAdvisor's "Dirtiest" list also didn't account for the fact the Grand Resort Hotel's management had recently changed. "We (The Grand Resort Hotel Group) acknowledge and accept full responsibility for the current situation," said a hotel statement following its dubious award. "We ... have recently come under new management and have already begun taking the proper steps necessary to restore this once great property, which has played host to tens of thousands of satisfied customers every year for its 30 years of existence."

The most recent one-star review for the property was placed on January 18.

The second worst hotel in America, TripAdvisor has announced, is the Jack London Inn in Oakland, Calif.. Its management didn't defend itself from the accusation.

But the third-nastiest hotel, Daytona Beach's Desert Inn Resort, claimed that "between 70-80%" of its customers were return guests, implying that its quality therefore couldn't be that bad.

The Desert Inn was even more pointed in its objections to being used for TripAdvisor's publicity campaign. Its statement claimed that TripAdvisor had approached the property to advertise on the site and was turned down, and that other hotels in the same city had ratings equal to or lower than its own.

It was the 98th most popular out of 108 in its city, with the bottom 10 never having been reviewed on TripAdvisor.

That these hotels have amassed a horrific track record isn't in dispute. But TripAdvisor's methodology, which holds these properties up for national ridicule in an annual promotional campaign, can be questioned when its own site lists other hotels as worse, acknowledges that a percentage of properties has not been reviewed at all, and doesn't account for recent improvements such as management changes.

There's also the larger issue of how TripAdvisor's reviews are collected to begin with. The site has long been accused of being an easily manipulated battleground for sabotage-minded rivals and public relations puffery. The site claims it has the means to catch "the vast majority" of bogus reviews, but the fact is that no human or algorithm can infallibly separate lies from truth.

Many hotels also gently pressure guests to lodge positive reviews after their stays in order to bump up their rankings. Hotels that make no such effort are placed at a disadvantage.

TripAdvisor's Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels 2011: United States
1. Grand Resort Hotel & Convention Center, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
2. Jack London Inn, Oakland, California
3. Desert Inn Resort, Daytona Beach, Florida
4. Hotel Carter, New York City (the home of the mattress pictured above)
5. Polynesian Beach & Golf Resort, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
6. Atlantic Beach Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
7. Rodeway Inn, Williamsville, New York
8. Super 8 Estes Park, Estes Park, Colorado
9. Palm Grove Hotel and Suites, Virginia Beach, Virginia
10. Econo Lodge Newark International Airport, Elizabeth, New Jersey

How much do you trust TripAdvisor's reviews?
100% trust the reviews4929 (25.1%)
I read them but take it with a grain of salt8409 (42.7%)
Don't trust them at all2020 (10.3%)
TripAdvisor? What's that?4316 (21.9%)

Photo by Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images
Filed Under: News, Hotel

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The customers should post the hotels they hate,. I'd believe that..

April 30 2011 at 9:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


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April 26 2011 at 12:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I used to post reviews on TripAdvisor. Then I found a restaurant I really liked and posted a positive review of it and they refused to accept my review. I emailed them and asked them in what way my review failed to meet their requirements and they wrote back and said their policy was not to tell people how they had violated the standards. Since I'm a professional travel writer and restaurant reviewer plus a college professor, and since I had never even been in that town before, let alone that particular restaurant, I am obviously capable of writing a competent review, and I was obviously not biased. So since then I've been pretty skeptical of Trip Advisor's reviews. I think if you buy an ad or otherwise pay them they allow the positive reviews to post and screen out most of the negative reviews, allowing a few through to make it look balanced. I think if you don't pay or buy an ad, you mysteriously end up with more negative reviews. I think does a better job of the places they do review, because their own staff does all the reviews, except they don't review as many places. For just restaurants, and just in Kentucky, like most people I just use, which only covers one state but does it very, very well, because they do their own reviews.

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April 10 2011 at 8:40 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The Sandcastle Hotel in downtown Myrtle Beach was the filthiest place we have ever been in. Their website is totally deceiving.........DO NOT GO THERE! We left as soon as we got there and had to fight for a total refund.

April 08 2011 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kathy Torres

I love La Quinta, always accommodating for my dogs! However the Marriott in Santa Fe NM was horrible! It had bed bugs.

April 08 2011 at 11:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am shocked that a LaQuinta was not on this matter where its at, its a scary place unless your into ladies of the evening....Dont take your kids there...please

April 08 2011 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We stayed at the Grand about 15 years,2 or 3 times a year,the last was 10 years ago,we checked in ,looked at the room,went and got refund and left. IT used to be one of the best,hope they clean it up.

April 08 2011 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The absolute WORST HOTEL I have ever stayed in is the HUMMINGBIRD HOTEL in Lake Worth, Florida. The reviews make it sound like paradise but they must have been written by the hotel's management. I wanted to be near John G's restaurant on the beach so I was looking for a close motel. There is no parking, only on-street parking if you can find a space. They sold their lot to a nearby business. There is no elevator so you have to carry your bags upstairs to your room. You have to share a bath that is horrible beyond belief. The double bed is shoved up against the wall and there is very little walking space around the other side and end. The springs in the bed will jab you in the back. There is a nightclub right next door that blares music till 2:00 AM thus preventing you from sleeping, also. The HH claims they have coffee but the coffee pot was placed on a table about 6-8' from an electrical outlet with no coffee, filters, or condiments anywhere in sight (obviously they've never served coffee to any one). This has to be one of the worst hotels in America because the reviews are so misleading. I would suggest an investigation of how the reviews were entered and by whom.

April 08 2011 at 10:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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