The senior travel editor of The Independent has said he would prefer to follow the advice of a trusted friend rather than online review site TripAdvisor when selecting a hotel.
"TripAdvisor is a fantastic resource in the right hands, but the problem is I don't know who those hands are," said Simon Calder, who is also a familiar travel commentator on BBC radio and TV.
Speaking at the Annual Hotel Conference 2014 at the Hilton Deansgate Manchester, Calder said three years ago TripAdvisor was the place to check out what to expect from a hotel, but now it was well known that it was easy to manipulate following the appearance of reviews for non-existent establishments.
"Why would I seek the advice of some unknown person who I can't rely on? I would much rather go somewhere on the advice of someone I know."
However, Calder said that he does use TripAdvisor to check out the response from hotels to reviews, believing that they indicate whether or not a business is prepared to put its customer first.
In an entertaining and amusing presentation, Calder also advised the gathered representatives of the hotel industry on what he wants to see in UK hotels in 2015:
- The delivery of the service that is promised.
- More plug sockets in bedrooms. "The first thing that most of us now do when we enter a room is to plug in our mobiles and laptops. People will thank you for providing plenty of sockets."
- Action on publicised green credentials. "I was impressed by a hotel that offered me apple juice when I asked for orange juice because they said it fitted in with their local supply policy."
- Free WiFi. "We all need it and we need it to be free. It should be on tap like hot water."
- Simple choices. "I don't want to be faced with a selection of 87,000 different coffees, as offered by Starbucks."
- Expectations managed carefully.
- Guests being educated about the commissions which have to be paid to online travel agents. "You have to offer rate parity, but why not offer guests the loan of a bike or a free breakfast if they book direct?"
- Entry into guide books. "Despite the proliferation of online sites, people still carry around books like the Lonely Planet Guide to Britain."
- Generosity. "Don't do what a hotel told me to do when they lost the remainder of a bottle of wine that I had not finished the previous evening: ‘don't drink any more than you had last night'."
- Say hello and goodbye properly and show recognition to regular guests.