If you’re looking for an RV park or campground, which review model is most reliable?
Professional reviews? User reviews? Reviews from travelers who can prove they stayed at the joint?
There seems to be some debate — in the hotel industry, at least, if not via an outpouring from consumers — about the topic of reviews.
GuestRated, which runs a guest satisfaction rating program in the US for privately owned RV parks, campgrounds and resorts, just released its annual list of A-rated camping facilities, and separately the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), which uses reviews powered by GuestRated on the association’s GoCampingAmerican.com website, ¬†handed out Park of the Year Awards.
Some 44 parks earned an “A” from GuestRated based on 30,000 consumer reviews and among them was Ocean Lakes Family Campground in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which the ARVC presented with its Mega Park of the Year Award.
So what is the best way to get an accurate portrayal of an experience at Ocean Lakes Family Campground?
Ocean Lakes doesn’t post guest reviews although you can access a Review a Park tab on its website and reviews, powered by GuestRated, will appear on ARVC’s website.
On the assocation website, GoCampingAmerica, Ocean Lakes Family Campground gets a 4.7 rating out of 5, taking into account the service quality, property condition, campsites and restrooms, from 495 reviews, according to GuestRated.
However, for Ocean Lakes, at least, there were no actual reviews posted to read.
GuestRated doesn’t accept anonymous reviews, and review writers need to submit their email addresses to combat “spam or fraudulent information,” the company says, adding, “we will protect your confidentiality and personal information.”
However, GuestRated also states: “We may share your ratings, comments and personal information with the park that you reviewed to help them better understand your experience and opinions.”
So GuestRated doesn’t necessarily verify your previous stay, although it does share your personal information with the park, and gives the owner an opportunity to respond, the company says.
That may a good practice for the campground, but does sharing your personal information inhibit consumers from freely sharing their opinions?
A classic conumdrum.
Over at TripAdvisor, which accepts reviews from people with Facebook profiles or TripAdvisor accounts but doesn’t verify stays, Ocean Lakes Family Campground gets a lower rating, 3.5 out of 5, based on 109 reviews, and is ranked #15 of 28 specialty lodging places in Myrtle Beach.
Before submitting a TripAdvisor review, you have to check a box that says: “I certify that this review is based on my own experience and is my genuine opinion of this hotel, and that I have no personal or business relationship with this establishment, and have not been offered any incentive or payment originating from the establishment to write this review. I understand that TripAdvisor has a zero-tolerance policy on fake reviews.”
However, it is easy to post a review that actually isn’t based on your own experience.
Meanwhile, over at Google, which several months ago began collecting its own user reviews, the search engine¬†rates Ocean Lakes Family Campground a 4¬†out of 5 based on 18 reviews on Google Places.
In addition to Google’s own 18 user reviews from consumers, Google provides links to “reviews from around the web,” including 154 about Ocean Lakes from RV Park Reviews, four from Yahoo¬†(4.5 out of 5) and 2 from insiderpages (5 out of 5).
To write a review on Google, you need to sign into your Google account.
On the other end of the spectrum are professional reviews, including those from Woodall’s, which notes that Ocean Lakes is “big rig friendly.”
The more Ws, Woodall’s says, the more developed a campground or RV park is.
“Cleanliness is a major factor in determining if you and your family will have an enjoyable vacation,” Woodall’s says. “The maintenance level at a park must meet or exceed the recommended ratings or the rating cannot be assigned at that level.”
However, Woodall’s cautions that its rating system “does not indicate, good, better, best” and that each family must decide how much development at a facility fits with what the family is looking for in a vacation.
One consumer advantage of the TripAdvisor and Google review systems is that reviewers can upload their own photos, although there is no verification concerning whether the images are authentic and timely.
On the other hand, Ocean Lakes Family Campground has a webcam¬†and its own photo gallery, although the most recent images currently on the site date to 2009.
So, what is the best review system?
It probably depends if you are looking at it from a consumer perspective or a property owner’s standpoint.
And, from a consumer perspective, consulting different sorts of reviews, whether they be unverified critiques, verified reviews from travelers, professional reviews or information from the property itself, will provide the most well-rounded perspective.
On the other hand, who has the time to take on another full-time job?