The gospel truth
In a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts…a study from the Journal of Marketing Management, summarized in this article, claims that accommodations, clothing stores, restaurants, and transportation options in sacred places get much higher ratings on TripAdvisor than can be reasonably expected.
For example, Europe’s 200 best-rated tourist destinations average 3.96 stars. The sites in Mecca average 4.96 stars. A similar pattern is seen at other sacred locations such as the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jersusalem, and the Maya Devi Buddhist temple in Nepal.
The authors hypothesize that the spiritual experience of a place has a halo effect that makes people overlook or forget details they might otherwise find annoying, like a hard mattress in a hotel or slow service in a coffee shop.
The authors also discuss the quality of written reviews, which tend to be glowing for locations near these spiritual sites. Specifically, they reference other research demonstrating that reviews written in story form – in which people discuss their emotions and state of mind, and which convey a sense of place – are more persuasive than more analytical descriptions of an experience.
This may explain why reviews can diverge so dramatically, and why we perhaps we should take these reviews as something less than gospel, no pun intended. Your assessment may have less to do with your experience and more with how your feelings shape your perception of that experience