For many travellers, the source that has the most weight, even today, remains word of mouth, says Marc-Antoine Vachon. “But it’s not always easy to find someone in your entourage who knows where you want to go,” adds the holder of the Transat Chair in Tourism and professor in the marketing department of the École des sciences de management of UQAM.
“That’s where we’re going to look for an opinion that’s closer to us – unlike a commercial source,” he says. And the universal answer, for years, has been TripAdvisor, which claims to help half a billion travelers a month. »
Julie Brodeur has been a travel guide editor and writer at Ulysse for 25 years, and TripAdvisor is consistently one of the sources she consults before she travels. But it is not limited to that. “I try to go and see as many as I can,” she said. Local newspapers, blogs, charts, in addition to using tourist offices – especially when looking for new restaurants.
The creator of the Will Travel for Food blog, Mayssam Samaha – a travel and food enthusiast – also does extensive research before a trip and cross-checks the information she gets from magazine or blog articles, without ever resorting to platforms like TripAdvisor.
Mayssam Samaha also lists all the interesting stops that she spots, during her research, on a Google map that she consults carefully once there, directly on her phone. For her most recent trip to Mexico City, she notably selected nearly 100 restaurants and cafes… for a six-day stay.
“I know I won’t be able to try all these addresses,” she said. But if I find myself lost in a neighborhood and I’m hungry or craving a coffee, I can look at my map and say to myself: OK, there’s a restaurant that I wrote down three blocks from here, I go. It’s easier than trying to find something when you’re hungry. »
No matter where she is, Julie Brodeur systematically asks the travelers she meets about the restaurants they have had the chance to try, in order to update her list. “As you talk, sometimes you’ll discover a little gem. Conversely, this trick sometimes allows him to review certain choices.
She also does not hesitate to directly approach the staff of an establishment before sitting down to eat there, in order to get an idea of the atmosphere and the service. “I’ve been turned around before by someone who really wasn’t likeable, so I thought to myself, I won’t put this one in my guide.” »
Calling on locals, by talking to the hotel concierge or the barista at the nearby café, is also a winning strategy for finding neighborhood restaurants that are sometimes hidden, adds Mayssam Samaha.
But the “infallible” trick that has always allowed her to be well advised is to book a culinary tour at the beginning of her stay. “First, it gives you a general idea of the city and its food culture. And this is the perfect opportunity to learn from the guide, she adds. “I take tours of the Jean-Talon market here in Montreal, and the people who take them are mostly tourists who always ask me for restaurant recommendations. It’s good, too, to go around during the first two days of your trip because you have time to change your reservations, if ever, or to make some. »
Despite their extensive experience as globetrotters, these two seasoned travelers are not immune to disappointment. Julie Brodeur has already found herself in situations where her appreciation of a place did not correspond at all to the impressions of Internet users or tourists encountered there. “On TripAdvisor, there are comments from people from all over the world and I realized that even if I have a cultural openness, that I have been traveling for 30 years, I stay with my glasses and my North American referents “, she underlines.
“It may be less marked for restaurants than for accommodation, in terms of comfort, but the taverns that I like and where I will feel comfortable eating street food, for example, are not the same that will appeal to others,” she adds. When she reads comments on TripAdvisor, for example, she makes sure to take their provenance into consideration, as much as possible.
If you choose to turn to the opinions of other online travelers, Marc-Antoine Vachon also recommends reading as many comments as possible, above all to avoid being trapped by those who are fraudulent. “The interest in this kind of platform will continue, and it is precisely linked to the increase in prices. A good part of travelers will be looking for good value for money, to maximize their chances of having an interesting and economical vacation. And that’s where, the more information you gather, the more likely you are to bet correctly, “he summarizes.
What makes a restaurant manage to rank among the addresses of an Ulysses travel guide? At the top of the list, answers Julie Brodeur, it must offer good value for money, in different price ranges. “People need to feel that the money they spent or the choice they made to sit there was worth it. It also has to be an enjoyable experience, a restaurant that stands out from the rest – in location, architecture, what it serves, service – especially in areas where there is a lot of choice. »