Back fresh from a week at a resort in Costa Rica, I’m kicking myself… for being taken in by a “TripAdvisor scam”. Essentially, we trusted a tour company because they touted their “great reviews on Trip Advisor” on the brochure, and verbally referred to it in their pitch. In short, we were done in by our love of user-generated content.
The good news is, the resort itself totally exceeded expectations. And TripAdvisor’s large number of reviews accurately reflected that. It’s not too tough to sort through a few misguided complaints by grouches who show up in a rain forest in rainy season, when the hotel is half under construction (as you can predict like clockwork, every year).
The problem: the tour company we fell in with, Issys Tours, doesn’t really have positive reviews on TripAdvisor. But you don’t have your Blackberry on the beach, and the smooth talking salesman (“Michael”) knows it. They have a single positive review (if you search high and low), and part of that was praising the company for taking the visitor in a van from the airport to the hotel. Not exactly a “tour”.
Our (private) tour was supposed to be to a volcano and was supposed to involve hiking. It had better involve a lot, because it was nearly four hours’ driving to the destination. Incredibly, when we finally got finished with all the driving, it turned out the highlight was going to be a shopping and poking around in a tiny, uninteresting town called Fortuna, where maybe we’d pick up some nice brochures for local real estate, and then four hours back. (Lunch in Fortuna was delicious. Unfortunately we didn’t require the calories for hiking.) Fortunately, we wheedled some small amount of hiking out of the driver. The driver, by the way, was a friendly and reasonably well-informed chap. It just wasn’t a real “tour”.
The promised “hot springs,” though in the end pleasant, weren’t as expected either. Somebody built a hotel around a hot springs and created a Rainforest Cafe-like effect with diverted pools and so forth, all man-made. Fun, and hot — but not exactly the nature walk we had planned.
What a rip!
And all because we simply took at face value a salesman’s claim that his company actually had “positive reviews on TripAdvisor.”
The established tour companies on location, namely Swiss Tours and the one affiliated with the Sunwing package holiday company, were far more reputable. No major harm done: we booked a wonderful national park river tour through Swiss Tours and had a great experience.
Tour companies come and go. Common sense indicates that if a major, respectable resort provides permanent office space to a tour company, you can probably trust them more than the guys relegated to hawking from the beach. Those salesmen have taken to making up TripAdvisor reputations they don’t have. I shouldn’t be surprised. Trust, but verify.