THEY may be the scourge of hotel owners who claim that the rise of online review sites such as TripAdvisor can ruin their business if just one disgruntled customer leaves a negative comment.
But now travellers have ranked visits to Edinburgh as top in western and central Europe, according to an analysis of comments left on the web by online reviewers.
A report based on reviews posted online from travellers to 48 cities worldwide found that visits to the city scored 83.7 per cent in terms of customer satisfaction.
Cape Town in South Africa came out top in the global rankings, published in a report by PwC, with Edinburgh securing fourth position overall.
The report focused on reviews of stays in 11,000 hotels across the globe published on websites such as TripAdvisor.
Edinburgh hotels’ best features, according to the online reviews, were location and cleanliness. However, those same reviews say that the worst features were value and room quality, with people who have paid for top-end facilities most likely to give a rating of poor value for money.
Hotel management in the Capital responded on average to 16 per cent of online reviews, which was above the regional average. Hotels were more likely to respond to negative reviews, while reports of neutral experiences did not attract as much attention.
Martin Cowie, head of private business at PwC in Scotland, said: “This is a fantastic result for Edinburgh’s hotel sector. It just goes to show that the adage of location, location, location isn’t everything when it comes to travel with bedrooms, cleanliness and overall service considered just as vital when looking to book – and subsequently rate – a hotel.”
The survey found that high-end hotels were most likely to respond to negative reviews online than cheaper venues. while, overall, neutral comments from guests attracted less attention than even the most positive of reviews.
Mr Cowie added: “Online reviews have become one of the primary information sources for guests during the buying process. But even if some may challenge their validity, this is what is written about a hotel in the public space.
“In this increasingly digital age, it’s vital that hotels protect and enhance their reputation by proactively managing their online ratings. Embracing online reviews can provide a great opportunity for constructive exchange with guests.”
Edinburgh’s four-star hotels ranked second best overall, just behind Riga in Latvia.
However, its five-star hotels were ranked lower in comparison with other cities, falling to ninth place.
The report said: “During the service experience, the guest will continuously check whether the experience meets, exceeds, or fails to meet their expectations.
“A single bad experience during an otherwise smooth hotel experience can taint the rest of the experience and leave a negative overall impression.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “For Edinburgh to be named as the top destination in western and central Europe, and fourth in a list of 48 global cities, is a massive achievement – but the fact that this title is down to online reviews by hotel guests makes for an even greater accomplishment.
“Tourism is a vital part of Scotland’s economy, creating jobs and sustaining communities. As the nation’s capital, Edinburgh is renowned for its rich history and diverse culture, attracting visitors from all over the world.
“The results of this report shows that their efforts are clearly being recognised and appreciated.”