Why We Love Oyster.com
Tip of the hat to @davitydave for letting a lot of us know about Oyster.com. Thanks David.
Its name is Oyster Hotel Reviews (www.oyster.com). Aided by allegations that the popular TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com) has been manipulated and distorted by less-than-objective opinions sent to it by hoteliers and others, Oyster has hired “professionals” — full-time inspectors chosen from journalism students — to visit and report on thousands of the world’s hotels. The reviews posted by those “prel Wofessionals,” it claims, are vastly superior to those submitted by amateur critics (and by the hoteliers out to game the system). >>Full Story | And Follow-Up
Thoughts// Before we start, if you have read any of Mr. Frommers posts listed above you will quickly realize that this Godfather of Travel is not exactly sold on the wonder that is UGC, particularly when it comes to TripAdvisor. This post is not about that, we are not here to debate the truthiness of reviews on TripAdvisor, but merely to talk about the new offering from Oyster.com and how it relates to TripAdvisor.
And for the record, we are big fans of TripAdvisor, friends with employees and amazed how much one site has changed the travel planning process.
But, we love Oyster. Maybe a little too much.
The claim to fame for the site is there staff of full-time, professional travel reviewers. Men and women who have degrees in Journalism (or a related field) and, apparently, spend all there time traveling from hotel to hotel.
Currently, the site has a limited scope…just hotels…and only hotels in the Caribbean region of the globe. However, that appears to be expanding to New York and Las Vegas, plus I love the fact that they are just reviewing hotels. Keep it simple (stupid).
Okay, you get the idea. It is a hotel review site and as any good Travel 2.0 reader knows, we have seen a lot of travel review sites in the last two years, one better than the next (sarcasm intended!). But what sets Oyster.com apart is the writing, depth and honesty of the reviews.
Or, the content! Yes, content!!
For example, the bottom line review of the National Hotel in Miami:
A moderately priced designer hotel on posh upper Collins Avenue, the National boasts one of the largest, sleekest pools in Miami. But its small, slightly outdated rooms and relaxed, haphazard service doesn’t contend with its super-chic neighbors, the Delano and Sagamore hotels.
And about the staff:
Eager housekeepers and useful concierge, but most staff members are lazy.
Honest and instantly transparent. Sure, it is one person’s opinion, but I don’t think I have ever seen a travel review source, book or website, refer to anything as ‘lazy.’ While researching the site for this post, I found myself thinking, finally a review website that tells me what I really want to know about the hotel.
Aside from the written word, the photos for each hotel are spot on. The site says they take about 100+ for each property and it shows. Photos of the room, sure, but also photos detailing the shower including cleanliness of the fixtures, in-room menus and the mini-bar.
Finally, the site is just beautiful. Oh, how the use of white space is so underrated. In this case, I will make a direct comparison with TripAdvisor.
Sorry, but TripAdvisor is filled to the brim with ads and way too much content. Yeah, I said it. Too much content. Oyster.com is simple (again, KISS) and so easy to read and navigate. Again, we probably love it too much.
So that part covers the design and look of the site, but what about the content. Clearly, Oyster.com is moving away from the idea that UGC should be the primary content on a travel review site. It is there, but as a second option. And for many of us in the industry, that has been a question at countless conferences for the last several years.
Where is the breaking point for UGC? How much UGC do we need? Are consumers moving away from UGC and looking for ‘expert’ content?
Make no mistake, UGC is here to stay. That box is not going to be closed back up. But, I do think that we are seeing the pendulum swing back toward the middle. Sites such as Oyster and yours truly (VISITDENVER.com) are embracing UGC while re-ordering the importance of the content.
Expert content first, UGC second.
Should UGC be looked at as a supporting element to the expert review? Verification of the writer’s comments, photos and criticisms, not the primary source of content. Personally, I want a professional travel writer who has stayed in hundreds, if not thousands of hotels to tell me about the comfort of the bed. And, if I want Bob from Iowa’s thoughts on the pool, I can seek those out as well.
Oyster.com, my favorite hotel review site.