Writing The Perfect Lodging Review

Travel writers - learn to craft the perfect lodging review
13 August 2010 Post Author:
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My name is Nancy Brown and I have a confession to make: I sleep around a lot.

Now don’t take that wrong. I’m a lodging editor.

I review two properties a week and I’m paid to sleep in other people’s beds.

While this may sound like an ideal job, the type of travel writing I do requires that I actually visit the properties that I write about.

After all, how can you write an honest lodging review in print or on a travel blog without actually visiting the property?

Write your lodging review to be of value to your readers.

As a journalism graduate, I take an old school approach to lodging reviews.

I ask myself the Five Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why (and of course, how much?).

Setting the Scene

The lede – yes, that’s spelled correctly – is the hook that draws your reader in. No one wants to read dull travel writing. The first paragraph must draw the reader in and set the scene.

The Picture Tells the Story

All journalists and travel bloggers would like to believe that their descriptive words tell a visual story. However, the old adage that “a picture tells a story” still rings true. When travelers search online, or in print for a lodging review, they look at the pictures first.

If possible, include your own photos in your lodging review. It demonstrates to editors that you are able to deliver quality photography to accompany your post. It also shows that you have actually set foot in the property you are reviewing.

Include an Insider Tip

An ‘insider tip’ provides added value to your reader. It may be in the form of a unique selling point (USP) that you have discovered while staying at the property. Is the hotel pet-friendly? Is there a bakery next door that sells scones for ½ price at the end of the day? Perhaps the resort offers horseback riding packages?

Social Media

In this day of social media, it is important to ask if the property you are reviewing is active on Twitter, and if they have a Facebook Fan page. If the property offers lodging specials on their fan page or a Tuesday Twitter deal, mention this is in your review. Write your lodging review to be of value to your readers.

If You Go

Remember the kiss analogy – keep it simple, stupid? While the assumption is not that your readers are stupid, it is to be assumed that their time is limited. The “if you go” box should include the name of the property, with a link to the website if you are writing an online travel blog review. Always list the phone number and the address of the property and the typical price of the room somewhere in the lodging review.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

If you plan to write a lodging review, give the good, bad and the ugly. Nothing says “I-got-this-hotel-room-for-free” like a glowing lodging review. If you want to be taken seriously as a lodging reviewer, you need to point out the flaws in the property, as well as the highlights.

If your room looked onto a vacant, trash-laden lot, mention that – better yet, take a picture of the view. How many times have you stayed at a place, based on pictures, only to find that they had photo-shopped the image? Please, people – be real with your photography and lodging reviews.

When my family and I stayed at a Las Vegas joint on the strip, the 17th floor window screen was missing and looked down to the RV cement parking lot. I referred to our room as “the suicide room.” It was, in fact, dangerous and depressing. Of course, I e-mailed the property to let them know I was writing a review and asked them to get in touch with me. I even filled out their customer response survey, post trip. I never received a response from the company.

Don’t Forget Disclosure

In accordance with FTC blogger guidelines and as standard editorial practice, I always disclose if I was a guest of the property.

~ Nancy

Do you write lodging reviews? Share your advice!

12 Responses to “Writing The Perfect Lodging Review”

  1. Wendy
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great honest tips for writing a review as well as reading them. Often I have put a review on Yelp or other sites as I appreciate it when someone gives their opinion of a place. When I include hotels, B&B’s, etc. in my travel articles those seem to be the most commented on!
    Thanks for sharing…

  2. JoAnna
    Twitter:
    says:

    When I write lodging reviews, I try to take the sandwich approach. Good, criticism, something nice. That’s not always possible though, and such was the case at an eco-lodge that really left a bad taste in my mouth – my last line was something along the lines of “I really don’t recommend you stay here.” I’m always very honest in my reviews, and I don’t mince words.

    The other I try to do with hotel reviews is keep them interesting. I often write them in a narrative style, which I think puts some personality into what could be an otherwise dry piece of writing.
    .-= JoAnna´s last blog post: The Jane- A New York City Hotel =-.

  3. I’ve created a policy about how I do hotel reviews and what I look for as a Page on my blog: http://www.travelingwithmj.com/business-information/hotel-review-policy/

    By referring people to this right up front, before the visit, I find that it helps to avoid any misunderstanding about what it is I’m there to do. And it reminds them that the review will be honest and for the reader’s benefit.

  4. @Wendy
    I agree that first person reviews are more important than what the hotel/resort writes. I look to Yelp for restaurant reviews.
    .-= Nancy D. Brown´s last blog post: Things to See and Do in Copperopolis- Calaveras County- California =-.

  5. @JoAnna
    I like your sandwich approach.
    Agreed, narrative style is a good approach to lodging reviews.
    .-= Nancy D. Brown´s last blog post: Things to See and Do in Copperopolis- Calaveras County- California =-.

  6. @Mary Jo
    Nothing worse than finding someone elses hair in the shower or bath tub.
    .-= Nancy D. Brown´s last blog post: Copper Valley Trail Company Horseback Riding Vacation- Copperopolis- California =-.

  7. Donna Hull
    Twitter:
    says:

    Excellent points, Nancy. This post is a good refresher for all of us who write lodging reviews.
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog post: Saturday’s scene- Black Sand Beauty =-.

  8. Patti says:

    Nancy, I have just started writing hotel reviews for a fabulous high end chain. I haven’t found any flaws just yet (although I just came back from one of their beach resorts and there were a ton of children). As I am being comped to stay, how do you handle this situation and have you ever worried that by writing a less than glowing review you would not be asked by other properties to review their hotels? I am still a novice at this and just want to get better.

    Thanks.

  9. Dave and Deb
    Twitter:
    says:

    Great points. We have started writing some hotel reviews. We are invited mostly to take part in the adventures that are offered either at the resort or through the hotel, so we feel that we haven’t had to really review the hotel itself. We always end up reviewing the experience. I don’t know if this is the right approach or not?
    One rule is we are always honest. We hope that we have developed a relationship with our readers that they can trust our opinion. If we started giving fluffy reviews for hotels that give us free stays, we assume that people would lose respect for our blog and frankly, we would lose respect for ourselves:-)
    I can’t believe that the hotel didn’t get back to you regarding the suicide room. We wrote a strong review about a large company once and they emailed us thanking us for the feedback stating that we showed them that they have a few issues they need to deal with. They even tweeted the article and featured it on their newsletter. So I do believe that large established companies appreciate honest feedback regarding what they can improve on.
    Excellent Article thanks for sharing.

  10. Sophie
    Twitter:
    says:

    Loads of useful tips here – and also in Mary Jo’s policy guidelines.

  11. @Patti
    Were you hired by the hotel to write lodging reviews? As I write for newspapers, magazines and online sites, I have never been hired by a propety to write a lodging review. However, if I were hired by a hotel chain, I would assume they hired me for my honest opinion.

    If I only wrote ‘glowing reviews’ I would have no credibility with my readers. I firmly believe in transparency and disclose when I am being hosted during a stay.
    .-= Nancy D. Brown´s last blog post: Horseback Riding Vacation in Bergen- Norway =-.

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