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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Does anyone still research the place they're heading to before they travel?

'Is it hot in Dubai?', 'Do you know when Ramadan is?' and 'Am I right in thinking that as an Arab country there are some booze restrictions?' were just some of the questions asked of me by readers of the NineMSN Travel site during a live chat, that went hand-in-hand with our Dubai Insider’s Guide. It was fun to interact with people and give advice, because we rarely get to communicate with readers of our books and articles. The 'live' element was challenging. Several minutes before the designated start, a few messages popped up before I was bombarded with multiple Messenger boxes on my screen. Because I didn’t want to lose anyone, I jumped between boxes: 'Hi! How are you? Hang on please, I’ll get to you in a moment…” and then jumped back to the first person in queue. I fielded questions from 30 people in 60 minutes, and only lost four, which I thought was pretty good. There were specific questions like: 'I'm flying to London from Sydney later in the month and was planning to have a night or two in Dubai... what would be your top five things to do including two great places to eat? and 'If you were planning a holiday to Dubai, for 2 weeks say, how much spending money would be required and how much would 4* hotel be?' Readers asked about everything from the language spoken to safety issues for women - and Australians. One person wrote '... just wondering what image of Dubai to believe – that it's a nice holiday venue with good weather and facilities, or a building site packed with c-list celebs on free holidays given to them to boost exposure and tourism?' Good question. The exercise raised a lot of questions for me as a travel writer: Do people still do research before they travel? Or is pre-trip research a thing of the past? Will any of these people buy my guidebooks to Dubai before they go? And why haven’t they bought one by now? Or do travellers these days mainly rely on the Internet for their information, whether its TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree or MSNTravel’s live chats? If so, will they have a less enjoyable or less meaningful time than if they did some real research and took a guidebook? Why am I even spending 18 hours a day writing guidebooks? Maybe I should become a ‘live chat host’ instead?


Fly Brother said...

This is an amazing blog - waaay too much info for just one sitting. I missed the live chat, but instead of bugging you about budget options in Dubai, I'll see what I can scrounge up from the BootsNAll or Virtual Tourist first. From a practicality standpoint, how could people not do their research before hitting the road? There's all kinds of considerations: climate, political situations, linguistic issues. Yet I'm sure some people let someone else do the planning and they just go along for the ride. Can't imagine an independent traveler not doing research beforehand.

Lara Dunston said...

Hey Fly Brother - thanks! Glad you like it! Well, you're welcome to keep dropping by.

I hope the post didn't deter you from asking me anything... I guess it was more of a rhetorical question. It just made me wonder if people still did any research at all, because a lot of people who logged on to the chat already had their tickets and were going but didn't seem to know what language was spoken or whether it was expensive. I find it interesting, that's all.

Please do bug me about budget options in Dubai. Because Dubai definitely is a budget destination. How about I do a post for you?

Fly Brother said...

Ok...buying tickets to a country without knowing what language they speak is, at best, risky. I definitely see why you posed the question.

Yes...a post on inexpensive Dubai would be great! I know lots of folks would appreciate that, since the city has the image of being prohibitively expensive, and therefore discouraging to a more budget-conscious traveler. I was considering doing the couch surfing thing myself, since I'm not one for hostels. Please, enlighten the proletariat.

Many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Lara -

I always do extensive research for my own trips starting with guidebooks and using the internet to cross check information. Still travel always includes surprises. I booked a gorgeous B&B recently and when I checked in was mortified by the room. Even with the best planning, it happens. Congrats on the new book. I bought the last one and found it very helpful.

Anonymous said...

I think the majority research before a trip. Some do more, others less. I know friends who start researching and planning weeks, even months, before a certain trip, while others just go online a few days before to learn the most basic things. Probably depends on the purpose of their trip, interests, budget, how they travel.

I LOVE researching (whether it's guidebooks or tripadvisor), that's half of the fun with traveling!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi travel muse - yes, I'm the same as you, always doing tonnes of research, but I have to, it's just part of the job, but I was surprised by the questions the other day on the NineMSN Live Chat, as they kind of suggested that not many people had done research at all. Are they a different type of traveller or is Dubai perhaps the kind of destination where readers feel like they don't need to do as much research? It's interesting.

Erica - I think research is fun too, and the research helps fuel that sense of anticipation for me!

Anonymous said...

I do a fair bit of research before I travel anywhere. Not only a bit about history, culture, architecture, major sights in an area, wildlife, nearby national parks and what not to map out a basic itinerary for the journey. Some is checked on the internet but I tend to prefer a guidebook. When actually there, then I plan my day a night (or two) before. Some of each day is fairly ad hoc as I think that is key to a holiday. I only rarely use guidebooks for eats and where to stay.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that's partly due to Ninemsn's readership too. A fair few would merely be curious about the place, rather than were definitely planning trips. It's a very mainstream audience there, and it'll lead to different types of questions than you'll get from, say, a dedicated Middle East or Dubai site.


Wonderful!...and for you...

"love is the one who masters all things."

Mawlãnã Rumi. said...

Think it is a balance between the two, need to know enough to be safe. But if you knew everything then whats the point in going.

Anonymous said...

I feel travel guides are some what a paradox, the main reason I travel is to do something unknown and out the box!

Anonymous said...

There is so much to see and so much to do that loneliness has never been a factor for me. Folks just need to be excited about learning and seeing new things.

Anonymous said...

Will i still do research about the place i am going, specially if it is my first time. It is better to have some information, so if something wrong you know what to do.
online hotel reservation

Anonymous said...

Although I think the internet is an amazing source of travel information, you can't beat a good guide book. I always find it exciting reading up before you go and then reading things again at night when you are in situ!

I also think you get used to whichever guidebook you start out with. Fodors has never let me down!!

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Mark H - good to see another researcher out there like me!

Hi David - you may well be right re the audience, but I thought the average traveller did do some basic research.

Hello Rosa - nice thought.

Hey GTP - great point!

Chris - you're dead right. And those guides that point out off-the-beaten-track places and hidden gems even more so, because by doing so, they're no longer going to be hidden, but will become firmly placed on the tourist trail.

Bill - I couldn't agree with you more on that.

Odicy - well, obviously you know what you're doing there!

Lisa - yeah, I've grown to like Fodors more the more I've 'matured', and I like the newer style too.

Anonymous said...

I think it should really be best to research for the place you're heading to for your vacation. Planning and preparation can help you get the best out of it. Not only that, you will know the best deals there is, and can make your holiday a cheaper one.