Sunday, September 18, 2011

Travel Writers Beware ~ a cautionary tale from Morocco


It is standard practise for reviewers to not reveal to a restaurant or hotel that they are doing a review. To do so negates the purpose of seeing the business as the clients they are writing for would. It is considered unethical - even more so if the motivation is to get a free meal, service or accommodation.

If a reviewer is a well known identity, then they often book under an assumed name and there are cases where they have even adopted disguises so a business does not know they are being reviewed.

It is the same story for the publishers of the better travel guides. They have clear ethical guidlines.

"They (our authors) don't take freebies in exchange for positive coverage so you can be sure that the advice you're given is impartial" - Lonely Planet

We will leave it to you to imagine our reaction when we came across the following quote in an article by a person purporting to be a travel writer. To compound matters, the article was syndicated on the website of a major guidebook company - and one that has very high ethical standards.

We will not shame the writer by disclosing his identity. Here is what he wrote about a hotel in Morocco...

Breakfast (a simple one I was told) was 17 Euros per person – which is roughly triple what a great breakfast costs at the cafe down the street. Even when I told them I was doing a review for a third party, their reaction was stolid – which on one hand I admire, but on the other was just such incredibly mercenary bad business practice that I’m certain my jaw dropped. Frankly, if someone tells me they are reviewing me – I would at least offer to provide them with complimentary breakfast so they could write about it (and a complimentary dinner for that matter) but these guys – no way.

If reviewers all acted like this, then the public's faith in reviewers would be lost. With the current controversy over fake reviews on Trip Advisor it is even more important that would-be reviewers maintain the highest standards.


11 comments:

Maroc said...

Thank you. It needed to be said. Just because someone writes for social media does not mean they can act in an unethical way

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. I saw the article that was syndicated on Lonely Planet and wondered why they allowed such shabby writing. I guess they don't read the posts. Anyway it is good you pointed it out and I hope others will take heed.

As you point out, most of the guide books have ethical standards. But not all. I was surprised when I was approached to write for Fodors and they suggested I arrange as many freebies as possible. I refused the job.

Keep up the good work.

Fiona

James said...

Well said, sir, well said.

Anonymous said...

most restaurant critics also have to visit an establishment three times before submitting a review for publication.

Alison said...

I hope people learn a lesson from this. All those false reviews on Trip Advisor have caused people to be very wary of reviews. And this story is a great example of how someone who is plain greedy can devalue travel writing.

Debra W said...

This is an important post and I hope that future travel writers take notice

Charles B. Rogers said...

Hmmmm.....

Fodor's - one of the most respected travel publications encourages their writers to take as many freebies as possible... to me, that sort of points to the fact that it might just be something that IS acceptable and common.

I used to manage a tour company in Florida and the truth is that we (and all of our competitors and all of our restaurant friends and all of our hotel friends too for that matter) frequently gave freebies to publications such as the New York Times, the Chicago Herald Tribune, the Florida Sun, Time Magazine, People Magazine and even - dare I say it - Lonely Planet.

This is a part of the business and while there are reviews that like to sneak up on a place for the most part, it's polite and good business to let a business know that you are reviewing and allow them to put their best leg forward.

Sounds to me like the writer was being ethical in telling them he was reviewing and frankly - if someone tells you that they are reviewing you - it's pretty bad business practice to shrug your shoulders - that alone should tell you how the business treats customers who AREN'T reviewing them...

I mean come on, online writers often take a free cup of coffee in their favorite cafe...right???

James said...

Mmm. Murky ethics! Just because Fodors is so lax does not make it right. Fodors should instead pay their writers better.

David Kearns said...

I suspect the individual you were probably referring to was a little embarrassed as he appears to have launched a very personal attack on one of your writers. A shame really as he simply makes himself look even more foolish. Keep up the good work and bravo for your ethical stance!

Sandy McCutcheon said...

@ David. Yes, several people emailed the article to us. We don't take offence at it, as the assumptions were not correct and the reference to Wikipedia was simply wrong as we did not write that entry.

Anonymous said...

Taking a free coffee at a favourite cafe is about everyday life. It is a different thing if you are reviewing a place. I am surprised by the number of your readers who seem to think that ethics don't count for much. That is a shame.

Ethics aside, telling someone you are reviewing them means they will do their best and you will not experience their normal service. That, I am afraid, is simply good sense.