Understanding Bad Reviews To Increase Your Hotel’s ROI In 2015

Here’s what we know about travel reviews as 2014 comes to a close: they matter. A lot. There are plenty of stats out there that show positive reviews have a positive impact on travel booking decisions. In fact, this year in a TrustYou study, we uncovered that not only do review scores influence traveler decisions, positive reviews actually correlate with a willingness to spend more.

To help hotels determine where to invest dollars that will directly affect travel review scores, TrustYou analyzed semantic categories (service, room, food, etc.) among a sample of the most negative reviews from our database and compared them with the most positive reviews to understand which categories have the biggest impact on scores and to see if there are takeaways for hotels to consider when improving facilities and services. In total, we analyzed a sample of more than 20 million global verified hotel reviews. We compared how many times a semantic category was mentioned and the differences* in scores between negative vs. positive reviews for each category. Here’s what we found:

Hottest Hotel Issues: Service, Room and Location

Travelers mention these three hotel attributes more than anything else in both positive and negative reviews. Consider them to be “pre-requisites” for a guest to have a positive overall hotel experience.

That said, among these attributes, service has the biggest differences in score between the negative and positive reviews analyzed. In negative reviews, service receives an average score of 28.5 out of 100 (compared to 88.1 out of 100 for positive reviews). This large score difference shows that service is a key area that needs to be fixed when a hotel receives an influx of negative reviews.

Insufferable Internet

While not the most mentioned aspect about hotels, Internet receives some of the lowest scores among both positive hotel reviews and negative hotel reviews.

Bathrooms & Beds: Rampant In Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are 2.24 times more likely to contain mentions of the bathroom compared to positive reviews, so if this is a known problem area in your hotel, fixing it should directly impact your travel review scores. Last year, we analyzed the biggest complaints about hotel bathrooms and found that bathroom size and cleanliness are what guests complain about the most when evaluating their hotel bathroom.

Negative reviews are also nearly 2 times more likely to mention beds compared to positive reviews. This semantic category receives significantly different scores between negative and positive reviews (a score of 22.2 out of 100 in negative reviews vs. 66.4 in positive reviews). Addressing issues with your uncomfortable mattresses or investing in new linens will almost certainly improve your travel reviews.

Food and Breakfast Help Boost Positive Reviews

When done right, food and breakfast can be real crowd pleasers. Breakfast, for example, is nearly 2 times more likely to be mentioned in positive reviews, and both food and breakfast have large differences in score between positive vs. negative reviews (both over 40 percentage points). Improving food and breakfast offerings may therefore help boost overall hotel scores.

Price/Value: When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s really bad.

While price/value has nearly the same amount of mentions in both positive and negative reviews, it has one of the largest differences in scores (49 percentage points). At the end of the day, if the guest feels that he or she received a good value, it can have a positive impact on score, while if a guest feels that he or she did not get their money’s worth, it will almost certainly result in an overall negative review.

Takeaways for Hotels

Price/value may be the easiest way to immediately address guest concerns and start sailing back toward land. Ensure that you have properly trained staff so that service is friendly and professional. Beyond service, be honest about the shortcomings your property has and try to adjust your rates to meet guest expectations until you can make fundamental facility improvements.

While location may seem like a fundamental issue that can’t be fixed, there are steps you can take to improve your hotel’s location scores. Consider providing better transportation or finding ways to make your hotel quieter if your location is noisy. Most importantly, be honest and upfront about your location before guests arrive.

When you’re ready to deal with property issues, start with mattresses, rooms/bathrooms, and food, and you should start to see better review scores—perhaps you’ll even be able to adjust your rates accordingly, as a result. Look at your reviews to drill down to specific complaints about your rooms to determine if something simple like fresh paint might improve the experience.

Oh, and please fix the Internet. While it won’t necessarily sway your overall reviews from negative to positive, it’s now a basic amenity like hot water.

Finally, track it all. Monitor your reviews throughout the year to track changes in guest attitudes about your hotel. It will pay off.


* A big difference in score for a given attribute indicates that it may be an important factor in determining whether or not a guest has a positive or negative overall hotel experience. Score difference is the difference in average score for a given category between the positive sample of reviews and the negative sample of reviews analyzed. A large difference in scores means that the positive reviews showed substantially higher scores for a given attribute.