There was a local cafe near my Airbnb in Havana that I visited every day. It didn’t have an accent flower wall or an extravagant menu, but it was one of the highlights of my trip because it had great service. The bar staff and waiters made it a point to ask about our day, give us advice on places to go and when, and curated new drinks and dishes to fit my dietary restrictions. On my last day in the city, the owner insisted that I leave his place a review on TripAdvisor.
I don’t even rate my Uber drivers but I was happy to do it for this small business because the owner made me feel like family.
As much as globe-trotting is about getting a photo with popular sites, more and more travellers want stories of local connections and doing things off the beaten path. And how do we go about doing so? Reviews.
According to a 2019 survey, 82 per cent of consumers said they read online reviews of businesses before buying.
Mohomed Mousa, a frequent traveller, prides himself on being crowned a “Local Guide” by Google Reviews. In 2019, he took more than 20 flights and travelled to six countries. He leaves ample appraisals and critiques of businesses and services he uses, especially on the road.
“It’s my way to give back to the travel community.”
Leaving reviews is a millennial’s version of word-of-mouth and is the most effective method of marketing, he said. “It’s my way to give back to the travel community.”
Do Google Reviews help travellers?
“[Reviews] hundred percent help travellers,” said Mousa, “because I’ve been in that spot before.”
On his first solo trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, he credited Google Reviews for helping him find the best hikes from the plethora of trails offered in the region.
Reviews also help businesses
The survey also noted that 67 percent of consumers have now been asked to leave a review for a local business.
Mousa is a part of that percentage. His massage therapist, for example, asked him to review his experience because more new clients started to register after reading reviews left by previous clients, Mousa said.
Though Mousa tries to leave mostly good reviews, he said leaving bad reviews pertaining ill-mannered hosts made him “feel better”.
“It’s like writing a letter and sending it, it helps,” he added.
There is a small coffee shop close to my place in Notting Hill that I do most of my writing in. It has strong wifi and pretty cappuccinos. I discovered it when I searched for “cafes near me” and it came up as Google’s top options due to its high rating.
Currently, the cafe has a rating of 4.1 stars on Google Reviews and 4 stars on TripAdvisor.
I asked one of the managers, Oriel, about whether he cared about the reviews.
“They’re pretty important,” he said. “We get around 1-4 reviews a week and I look at them all.”
“Notting Hill is a very touristy neighbourhood in London and some [tourists] do look at the reviews, just like I do when I travel,” he added.
For Mousa, helping the travel community comes with a sense of fulfilment. “When I get views and likes [on my reviews], I assume other travellers experienced the same good [service] or meant it as a ‘thank you’,” he said.
I scrolled through the reviews Mousa had left and it was refreshing to see them dating back several years. I thought this was a great way to keep track of the places one visited in case friends ever asked for recommendations.
That’s why one of my 2020 resolutions is to leave more reviews for places I interact with. I always appreciate when people comment on my writing so passing on that energy in form of reviews sounds like a nice way to keep good karma rolling.
Happy New Year!