15 April 2008

Lonely Planet roasted in a lonely Hell

'Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism' by Thomas Kohnstamm has essentially brought forth an age old question of economics in this industry. How do travel writers, especially those who write guidebooks, afford the restaurants and hotels reviewed in the guides? If they had not stayed at the reviewed hotel or eaten at that dining establishment, then, their reviews would be based on hearsay of others or on simply upon what the writers had read.

The upcoming book from Kohnstamm, a writer who has written for Lonely Planet, has reportedly spoken of fabrication and not having been to the places that he had reviewed.

Lonely Planet, now owned by the BBC, has defended itself with charges of misrepresentations and that the articles were essentially accurate. Another defence offered was that the guides that Kohnstamm has contributed to were no longer in print! That is a business defence. The reality, from how I see it is that Lonely Planet has branded itself as essentially having a personal and insider's view of a nation and their defence has unwittingly revealed quite a bit of their operating practices and has validated that Lonely Planet is not exactly what it has branded itself to be.

As for Kohnstamm's kiss and tell account, he will have his self-interest at hand but as explained earlier, Lonely Planet's defence is revealing. I should think that Kohnstamm's account will be rather fun to read.


QuaChee said...

Off topic a lil - the one thing I realise on some travel guide books - the recommendations are not from a local perspective hence very swayed.

And the worst is when visiting a country like in Asia - where locals know the inside out of their culture better.

But I must say doing a travel book is not easy if to incorporate all these :)

Chuang Shyue Chou said...

Yes, you are right. They are definitely not from a local perspective. And sometimes, the recommendations and reviews are from a cursory glance.