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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Or the smartest exercise in exacting (free) travel research ever?

So now I'm wondering if the New York Times was really so naive... perhaps they intended from the outset that their 2008 travel destination list should be as provocative as it has been? Could they really be that smart? Because in those 450+ comments (and rising) they have some high quality research there, stuff that airlines, tour companies and tourist organizations pay top dollars for. They now know - because they certainly didn't before - what kind of travel their readers actually do, which places they really want to go to, and what inspires them to travel. If I was the NYT travel editor and ad sales guys I'd be studying those reader comments, identifying the trends, and determining what destinations are really going to be hot in 2008. And I'd be making sure my editorial and advertising calendars included content on those places and topics, not the silly ones their journalist dreamed up while reviewing the year's luxury assignments over a bottle of bubbly. (It seems Jaunted must have been sharing the bottle because they unquestionably agree with the much-criticized list telling us to grab our pen and pad and - wait for it - not to miss San Diego's Hard Rock Hotel!) I only had to spend ten minutes reading the readers comments to detect some common themes - the rise in popularity of the road trip, slow travel, experiential travel, meaningful travel, authentic travel, volunteerism in travel, responsible travel, and the desire to live like a local - and identify some desirable destinations - Dubai, China, Chile, Sarajevo, Mostar, the Baltic countries, Iceland, Alaska, Quebec, anywhere in Africa it seems, Madagascar, Columbia, Peru, India, and Goa in particular were all mentioned often. Many of those are on my list too.

5 comments:

Terry said...

If I was the NYT Travel Editor, i'd be working on my resumé...

laradunston said...

The writer certainly should be too...

Xander said...

This list is very strange, and so badly written. Vietnam is so 2007, and yet it's still on their list? And you should go to Vietnam for golf? Really? And Donald Trump going to Las Vegas is a reason people should WANT to go?

In some places, their list seems so old. Buenos Aires? I worked at a travel store back in 2005, and by then already knew that I think that, just as you pointed out in your analysis of the comments, Chile is now becoming the "new Argentina", to speak in that annoying travel-list language.

However, it's completely unsurprising that Laos is at the top of their list, if not particularly original. I feel as though the temples of Luang Phabang have appeared on the cover of every international travel magazine over this past year. It was featured in Lonely Planet's "Bluelist 2007", showing how cutting edge this list is. Their use of "upscale" and "luxury" would likely draw people to the country for all the wrong reasons... Unless they fly in and out of Luang Phabang, they're going to be rather surprised by what they find.

-X

Terry said...

One thing we should point out xander, is the reason behind the avalanche of stories on a particular destination is the fact that there probably was a tourist board junket to that destination a couple of months before. As we monitor the travel press it becomes pretty apparent that all these writers are just back from being wined 'n' dined at that particular destination. I saw a review of The Burj al-Arab the other day in a once-reputed newspaper and it was simply glowing -- which is crazy. The Burj might be iconic, but it's not above criticism as a hotel. Then I reached the end of the story and there's the all-too familiar disclaimer that the writer was a 'guest' of the hotel. The junket not only over-exposes a place, but it often leads to a total whitewash of any of a destinations faults.

Probably a good blog entry idea for Lara to follow through on!

laradunston said...

Xander, I so agree with you, and Terry, thank you for the challenge. Anne has already asked me to blog more about the travel writing side of things. I guess it's timely to start to share some industry secrets... but perhaps everyone already knows...