Photo by Sh@wn~c0mbs on Flickr
Here’s a dilemma for all you travel writers out there…
What do you do when a hotel specifically tells you they do not want to be included within your article/book/website?
This situation arose recently for a colleague of mine. (Those on Twitter may remember I mentioned it briefly.) I won’t go into details, but it was a South American destination, and some rural, no-frills accommodation. The owner told the writer, very politely, that she specifically did not want to reach out to a European or US clientele. Why? The general gist seemed to be it would bring a different set of expectations from the guests and the owners would be under more pressure.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this. On one hand, fair enough, I respect their want to kept to their roots, stick to what they know, and also that they don’t feel the need to chase the Euro/US market. On the other hand (and after reading the email exchange), I feel the owner had fallen into a trap of stereotypes. She thought that the writer would fail to mention that it was simple, rural dwelling and guests would all turn up with their Luis Vuitton wheelie cases wondering why there was no soy milk for their cappuccino. Had they been reading Liz Jones’s Exmoor files?
The above case was not the only one I’ve heard recently where a hotel owner feared an influx of disappointed guests. When another publication highlighted an establishment among a shortlist of ‘best’ recommendations, the hotel’s owners got nervous. “We aren’t the best in town! We’re just a simple B&B!” was roughly the theme of their written complaint. It certainly wasn’t the usual response. The editor then had to assure them that the article was meant to show how they shone in their own way and that they were the sort of unassuming gem we all like to read about.
You can see why owners fear disappointed guests. And especially these days when people advertise their disappointment on the world wide web via social networks and peer-to-peer review sites.
It is also true that once a local joint becomes popular with international tourists, there is a danger that the feel of the place can change and the local clientele could find themselves getting priced out. For travel writers, it’s a dilemma. We can be more than just a cog in the wheel. In some cases, we’re the electric motor.
Perhaps the biggest danger comes from over hyping a place. Yes, this makes editors happy (mainly because they’ll be oblivious and will fall into the hype honeypot too). And it makes readers happy, as they excitedly start planning their trip to paradise. Indeed, everyone is happy until someone actually goes there and finds the reality is rather different. “Are you on ‘hype watch’?” asked a colleague of mine when I was editing a guidebook recently. Good advice.
But back to the original question: travel writers – would you respect the wishes of a hotel to be kept out of your publication? Or if it’s a place that would really suit your readers would you explain your case? Or would you go ahead and publish without a second thought in the name of free speech? Readers of travel writing – what do you think? “Writers shouldn’t even tell people they are writing about the place” is the common answer. But as travel writers know, this isn’t always practical.