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Friday, December 14, 2007

Why travel wish lists matter, or, why a lack of imagination is a dangerous thing

So why should we care so much if publications like the New York Times get their 'hot new destinations' lists so wrong? Because our leisure time is important to us. For those of you who don't travel for a living, those one or two trips a year should be special. They should be memorable. They should be life-changing. You don't need to be swayed into visiting places where the streets are more crowded with tourists than locals. What's most disappointing about the NYT list is that many of its choices have been based on whether the place has a new golf course or luxury hotel. Now, I love a luxe hotel as much as the next person, but unless that hotel is extraordinary, one new hotel doesn't make a place a great destination. So, shouldn't this logic tell us something about NYT readers? You'd think so, until you read the 450 readers comments. These are the precise things readers object to about the NYT's choices, which reveal more about the publication and its writers than they do about global travel trends and travellers' aspirations. And this is why travel wish lists matter. Because these lists are about inspiring us to travel. And our travel dreams shouldn't be driven by a publication's advertisers or business imperatives, or, perhaps, quite simply, one writer's lack of instinct and imagination.


Wendy said...

The NYT's travel section has been lackluster to say the least for as long as I can remember. An article once outlined how to see London on a $500 day budget (this was well before the dollar tanked) and suggested high tea and the likes. Yikes.
It would be interesting to see what the U.K.'s Guardian says will be up and coming and compare the two.

TravelMuse said...

I agree. There is a sweet spot just before a place is really "discovered" (read: developed) where it's amazing to visit. I experienced that in Antigua, Guatemala.

What's on your wishlist?

Lara Dunston said...

Wendy, I'm with you... and yet somehow the NYT Travel section is, or rather, was once, so revered by so many travelers (and travel writers for that matter). Yet I can recall a number of articles that have been loaded with errors, it's been obvious the writer hasn't been to the place or it was quite literally a flying visit - did they even leave the airport?

Yes, let's compare it with the Guardian! That's something to look forward to, because there *will* be a hot new destinations for 2008 list, won't there? I have we missed it? I must check.

Travel Muse, I so agree with you too... we thought we were going to experience that with Croatia some years ago when all the travel press were touting it as that year's sizzling destination but when we got there it was crowded with Italians and the harbors were filled with the European yachting set and we found out they'd been going there for years - many years! It had just been a very well-kept secret. For some of us anyway. It was still lovely, but hardly the hidden gem we expected it to be. I'm wondering if Montenegro will be the same. Now, that's one destination that is on my wish list.

My wish list? Let's see...

Anonymous said...

It's an absolute disgrace. I was actually laughing out loud as I read the list out.
But Travelmuse, it's not just about the sweetspot for an underdeveloped destination (although that's true), it's about swings in popularity. My problem with the list is that it conflates the opening of new resorts or new golf courses with a place that's undergoing a sea change in its personality. Verbier & Courchevel entries are a case in point. A ski resort should only rate a mention when they've opened up a new mountain with new lifts or have decided to completely go without snow machines or banned vehicles from the town -- not just having new 2 million dollar apartments or Richard Branson open a hotel for multi-millionaires.
And Kuwait? I mean, I know everyone's looking for the new Dubai, but please, this is really grasping at straws. Or grasping for the advertising dollar...