Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Average Hotel Does Not Get The Average Rating

The millions of travelers who review hotels, restaurants, and other attractions on TripAdvisor also supply a numeric rating by clicking one of five circles ranging from 1 for "terrible" to 5 for "excellent." On the whole, travelers are pretty kind.The average review rating for hotels and other lodgings is over 3.9. The median score is 4 and since that middle review is lost somewhere in a huge pile of 4-ratings, well over half of hotel reviews give a 4 or 5 rating.

So with such kind reviewers, most hotels must have a rating over 4 and hoteliers must all love us, right? Actually, no. The average of all hotel ratings is 3.6. Here's why: some large, frequently-reviewed hotels have thousands of reviews. It is hardly surprising that the Bellagio in Las Vegas has about 250 times more reviews than say, the Cambridge Gateway Inn, an unloved motel in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It may or may not be surprising that these oft-reviewed properties tend to be well-liked by our reviewers. Surprising or not, it's true: the hotels with the most reviews have a higher average rating than the long tail of hotels, motels, B&Bs, and Inns with only a handful of reviews each.

The chart compares the distribution of user review scores with the distribution of hotel average scores.

For the curious, here are the top 10 hotels on TripAdvisor by number of reviews:

Luxor Las Vegas
Majestic Colonial Punta Cana
Bellagio Las Vegas
MGM Grand Hotel and Casino
Excellence Punta Cana
Flamingo Hotel & Casino
Venetian Resort Hotel Casino
Hotel Pennsylvania New York
Excalibur Hotel & Casino
Treasure Island - TI Hotel & Casino

Not all of these are beloved by TripAdvisor users. The Hotel Pennsylvania drags the average down since it receives more ones than any other score. Despite that, as a group these hotels have a higher than average score. The moral of the story is that you can't extrapolate from one level of aggregation to another without knowing how much weight to give each unit. In the last US presidential election, the average state voted Republican, but the average voter voted Democrat.