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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The most outrageous travel essay in recent history, according to budget travel guru

"The most outrageous travel essay in recent history" is what budget travel guru Arthur Frommer called the New York Times' '53 Places to go in 2008' in a superb analysis of the list. I'd only seen the online version, so if it really took up the amount of space he claims, it must be one of the worst wastages of column inches ever. I wonder if they'll publish an apology. I can't recall the last time travel journalism caused such controversy. I love Arthur Frommer's blog; he makes some brilliant points. But so do the NYT readers. Check out their comments: "shallowest piece of travel writing I've ever read, but thanks for cluing me in on exactly the places to AVOID in 2008. Luxury hotels indeed - what about seeing the actual country as its residents do?"; "This list is a thoughtless mish-mash... but to be fair, this is just for 2008. I suppose traveler(s) could take in Detroit this year and put off seeing Petra (one of the most spectacular and mysterious sites in Jordan) and Paris (the one in France, not the one in Texas) until 2009."; "I would go anywhere that this doesn't list... this list is meaningless."; "Money, money, money... the recent article compiled by DENNY LEE on 53 destinations for EXTREMELY RICH travelers to go to in 2008 is sick!"; and from a New Yorker: "This is disgusting. Does the entire world need to become an extension of our capitalist excess? "Seeing" the world maybe, but you're certainly not going to "experience" other cultures from a luxury gated tourist community."; and - my favorite - "Since when have must see destinations become synonymous with luxury? In my experience the quickest way to isolate yourself from a cultural experience is to check into an exlusive resort. What about all the places where you evaluate the success of your trip by the accumulation of dirt and dust on your rental car?" I can relate to that. We wiped a lot of dust off our hire car at the end of a road trip through Morocco, pictured, and even more red pindan dust after our 17,500 km drive through Western Australia last year, two extraordinary destinations that also went unmentioned.


Anonymous said...

I agree. I think the NY Times 'top 53' is just part of a growing trend in travel for the sake of travel, rather than travel for the sake of a 'real' experience. Somehow we're losing our ability to be selfless. We're so often focused on 'cool destinations' and the 'next big thing' in travel, that we forget to take into account the broader picture. It's easy to seem 'holier than thou' with this sort of critique. But c'mon, don't you think too many Western travelers are simply hitting the road these days to escape their day jobs, escape their suburban lives, escape the stress of life? That's OK, in one sense. But that's a very negative agenda. Travel should be about what you want, not what you're trying to avoid. Yes I know I am ranting. I wrote a piece with a similar theme on the Viator blog if you care to continue.

Lara Dunston said...

Agree with you to a certain extent, Scott - sometimes we all need a break to escape, and other times we want a whole lot more from our travels. But I really think it's more a case of the NYT being out of touch with readers. If you take a look at the comments, sure you'll find those who agree with the top 53 list and want to try that brand new luxury resort on blah blah beach or head back to Tuscany for the 20th time, but there were a lot of travellers on there talking about doing trips where they could combine volunteering, educational trips where they could learn something new, long eco-friendly overland trips and so on. I also think that we can't make generalisations about the luxury traveller anymore. On a recent trip to Thailand to research spas, hotels and restaurants for DK, we met a lot of mega-wealthy travellers at the Four Seasons who were might have been doing 4 nights at the FS but after that they were heading through Laos, Cambodia and Burma, doing a cooking course, doing elephant training, and so on. I think this is an important element that the NYT seems to be overlooking. Travellers are much more complex than they think and we all want different things at different times. I'll go and check out your blog.

Prêt à Voyager said...

Wow, Lara, thanks for cluing me in on this. I love that there's "controversy" surrounding travel and that it seems that people are starting to listen and react. Like with the Design*Sponge Baltimore guide we wrote, besides the guide itself there was a whole other story in the comments. Not one comment said "you missed the National Aquarium!" (aka the biggest tourist spot in the city), and people enjoyed the fact that we weren't trying to show the places that are the most popular. They liked that we picked the BEST places (some perhaps were the best kept secret). And then there was a whole undercurrent in the comments that said a lot about Baltimore as a place (ie. the "Beirut" comment you responded to).

I know we live in a little bubble where we find people who travel like us, but I do hope it's starting to rub off on others!