By Terry and Lara
When we were in Milan recently we had drinks with some hotel executives we’d met in Istanbul while attending the W opening. The PR person of the Milan hotel where we’d met for aperitivi told us how impressed she was that we’d had several story commissions on the hotel, its restaurant and Chef Jean-Georges, and that those had been published already, and she asked if we wanted to be included the next time she was coordinating a press trip. We very politely declined and she understood exactly why. If we’d been on a journalist’s junket in Istanbul we wouldn’t have had the freedom to pursue the stories that we did. And she agreed. But it was our recent visit to Venice where we got to observe the behaviour of one too many tour groups, and a story we read on spas in Thailand (more on that little gem soon), that brought home one of the reasons why we really don’t like the organised press trip. It’s because of its complete disconnect with the kind of travel that ‘normal’ travellers do. In a nutshell, junket journalists are treated like a cross between pampered pooches, 80-somethings on a shore-leave guided tour from a cruise ship, and package tourists whose last independent thought for the duration of their holiday was figuring out how they managed to get their name tag on upside down at the airport. We write for independent travellers, and by travelling independently ourselves we gain a better understanding of the logistical challenges that independent travellers face. Junket journalists don’t have to worry about finding that carpark in Venice, deciding how best to lug those bags to the hotel (do we walk, pay a porter or take a water taxi?), decide whether the exorbitant cost of the parking and ludicrously expensive Internet access means we should be changing hotels, and so on. These decisions are taken away from the junket journalist, who can just concentrate on gushing about how fabulous it is to be on a junket and to be a travel writer. While publications will sometimes state that the writer stayed courtesy of such and such a hotel or was flown in by a certain airline, and that’s great to see, we also believe that travel journalists should declare whether they were on a junket or not, so the reader can judge for themselves how much salt to sprinkle on the tale. We’ve read so many of these gushy stories, we can usually tell by the end of the second paragraph. But can you? And would knowing that the writer had been on a free package tour to the destination affect your reading of the story? What are your expectations of a writer and their travel experience when reading a travel story?
*Terry Carter is my husband, co-author, and a travel photographer
Thursday, August 7, 2008
By Terry and Lara