Another look at tripadvisor's hotel popularity ratings - Rusty Compass travel blog

Another look at tripadvisor's hotel popularity ratings

| 17 Oct 2009
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17 Oct 2009

Two months ago I wrote a blog piece about how three hotels in Hanoi - Elegance 4, 3 and 2 hotels all owned by the same company - dominated the top three spots on's popularity ratings (see Is being scammed in Hanoi). Two months later, the Hanoi Elegance hotels continue to hold the cherished first second and third spots. So last weekend I decided to visit the hotels and see if I could work out the magic.

Naturally, I visited the Elegance 4 Hotel first. It has been at the top  of the ratings for months now. Could this really be Hanoi's finest hotel? And could a single owner have the skill to own the top three hotels in a city of hundreds of properties?

Photo: Mark BowyerElegance Hotels - these large rooms are very nicely done at around 100USD per night
My inspection of the Elegance 4 Hotel was inconclusive. It is indeed a very agreeable hotel in its price range. At around 40USD per night, the basic rooms are smallish but great value for money. The larger suites have loads of space and also seemed pretty good value for money at around 100USD. The staff I met were excellent and the location in a quiet lane in the middle of Hanoi's Old Quarter is also very good. Rooms are simply and tastefully fitted, all have computers.  The Elegance 4 Hotel scrubbed up very well and was certainly a very plausible number 1 on tripadvisor's popular hotel ratings. There was no knock out feature though.

I also visited the Hanoi Elegance 3 and 2 Hotels - rated 2 and 3 on tripadvisor's list - but was far less convinced of the merit of their rankings. Actually, I didn't get to see rooms as the hotels were full. I did however get a pretty good sense of them from the staff and from the state of the public areas. While the Elegance 4 certainly had great appeal, these other older members of the group seemed very much like many other Hanoi hotels.

Photo: Mark BowyerThe Elegance 4's lead in rooms are small but also very nicely done at around 40USD per night
When I first spotted the issue in August, I sought comment from They did not reply to my request however. That was disappointing as the integrity of the popularity system is central to the integrity of the site. And the popularity ratings are clearly very important both to travellers and hotels. The three Elegance hotels at the top of tripadvisor's ratings were the only hotels I visited out of dozens in Hanoi that were fully booked for much of October. There are very big commercial gains to be had by hotels that achieve top popularity rankings on

Travellers staying at the Elegance hotels based on recommendations seem unlikely to be disappointed. The Elegance 4 is a very good property and the others also seem fine. It remains highly implausible however that these three hotels could have attained the top three popularity rankings by proper process. They certainly did not exhibit any knockout qualities that might have justified such a statistically extraordinary outcome. Without a response or verification from however, it is impossible to know.
Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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