The Top 6 Things Guests Write in Online Reviews

By Alex Gaggioli, December 23, 2015


Online reviews are easily one of the most important tools any hotelier can use to improve their business. Online reviews affect bookings, can highlight positive and negatives of your business, and give you a pat on the back after a job well done. We previously wrote an article on how negative reviews can help identify areas for improvement. Here, we analyze 120 TripAdvisor reviews from four different Palo Alto hotels to determine what travelers care about most.

TripAdvisor’s Review Dominance

Travelers look to TripAdvisor to find the perfect hotel based on other travelers’ experiences. According to a PhoCusWright study, 77% of travelers usually or always reference TripAdvisor reviews before selecting a hotel. Therefore, you should pay attention to what your guests are saying, and then respond. If a guest has taken the time to share their thoughts, you should return the favor.

Our Method

We looked at 120 TripAdvisor reviews from four different, well-rated Palo Alto properties. We chose properties that were similar to each other in price and client-base in order to make a fair comparison. The properties are luxury properties around the $200-400 price range and have at least a 4-star rating. Out of the 120 reviews, they had an average 4.5 satisfaction rating. So, we knew that the majority of reviews would reflect a positive sentiment.

Here are the four properties we looked at.

Based on the frequency of mentions, we chose 8 different categories:

  • Room
  • Service/staff
  • Amenities,
  • Cleanliness,
  • Extras/details (extravagant decor, chocolates on the bed, or free wine upon arrival because of a special event)
  • Noise
  • WiFi

The Results

TripAdvisor Independent Hotel Review Data

1. Rooms and Service

The results overwhelmingly show that people wrote about the room and the service they experienced during their stay. PhoCusWright’s study showed that TripAdvisor reviews in general are overwhelmingly positive. We noticed this while recording data for our own study. The two most common factors mentioned had to do with the room including the bed, bathroom, and general location and the service.

Travelers were always clear to mention that the staff make or break a property. Many reviews mentioned the normal staff procedures such as check-in and check-out. But, many also mentioned when the staff were extra friendly or went above and beyond their duties. Guests love when the staff remember their name during their stay. And several mentioned staff who remembered them from previous stays. These personal touches were important to guests and made a significant impact.

Check in with your own reviews and revisit your staff training materials. Find instances when you can wow your guests and go above and beyond. Make sure to ask guests if they are celebrating anything special and if they are, find ways to surprise and delight them.

2. Extras/Details and Amenities

The second most mentioned factor in a hotel review were the extras/details (18%) and the amenities (15%). These two categories are closely related, so we will analyze them together. As mentioned above, guests mentioned if the hotel went above and beyond their expectations. For example, one hotel impressed their guests with full size bath products.

Amenities such as restaurants, on-site gyms, pools, and parking were also mentioned. If a property offered breakfast, many guests noted whether the hours suited their needs. Flexible breakfast hours allow guests to operate on their own schedules, and often don’t go unnoticed.

Take a look at the types of guests you attract and figure out what added services your guests will enjoy the most. The four hotels we looked at attract both business travelers and tourists. So, the hotels that effectively catered to both were rewarded with a positive review.

3. Cleanliness

8% of mentions were related to how clean the room, bathroom, and property as a whole were. Surprisingly, none of the reviews were complaints about cleanliness, but rather praises for how clean the property was. The majority of comments were about the bathroom and how the traveler was impressed with their attention to detail.

Cleanliness is probably one of the easiest issues to address in your hotel. Set high expectations for your staff to keep your property in top shape. Showers and sinks were the top mentioned places where guests noticed if the property had done a good job.

4. Price

Price accounted for 7% of mentions in our study and was usually mentioned when the value of the stay was in question. The four hotels we chose operate in an expensive area. Thus, guests find themselves paying more money for an experience they may have received at a lower rate.

But, for these properties, they have to prove that the higher price is worth the experience they receive. Many of these hotels have high “value” ratings, so their additional amenities and impeccable service pay off.

5. Noise

Guests only mentioned noise 5% of the time. Most mentioned were guests upset about loud neighbors and street traffic. Hoteliers can implement quiet hours and install noise dampening curtains for rooms that face courtyards or busy streets. Reminding guests and staff to respect noise levels at night and in the early morning can help alleviate any noise complaints.

6. WiFi

WIFI was only mentioned 1% of the time in our research. While wifi is considered an amenity, we wanted to see how often reviews specifically mentioned its impact on their stay. We suspect that it was not mentioned very often because these four properties are in urban environments. And city properties often have the infrastructure to deliver a good internet connection.

If we had looked at properties located in South America, where WIFI is generally not as available, it probably would have been a different story.

Strong, free Wifi is important for most hotels to have. But, a solid internet connection is especially important for those with frequent business travelers.

Method Weaknesses

We recognize that our method has a few weaknesses. For one, we only analyzed one property type (top-end hotels), so the reviews reflect characteristics and needs of guests who frequent those kinds of hotels. Findings may be different for different types of properties, like a bed and breakfast, for example. Thus, other things, like the quality of breakfast and flexibility of breakfast hours, may be more important to b&b guests than independent hotel guests.

We also realize that the number of times an item was mentioned is no indication that the item is not important. Noise, for example, is something guests rarely think about until there is an issue. And when there is an issue, they report it in their reviews. Therefore, it wouldn’t be accurate to infer that noise is unimportant to guests, but rather that these four properties do not have significant noise problems.


Although we only looked at four properties, it is apparent what matters most to travelers.  It also shows what hoteliers should focus on to gain happy guests and positive reviews. First and foremost, your rooms and service should be top notch. And then, focus on what types of travelers you attract and find ways to add that personal touch.

Guests don’t want to be treated like a number and want to feel that their business matters. While our study shows general trends, we suggest you do an audit of your property’s reviews to see what your guests are saying. Then, find out how you can improve and continue to satisfy your guests.

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