It is my belief that the days of freelance travel writers doing a quick tour of a place, sponsored by this airline, or that hotel are over. Finished. Dead in the water.
Future travel guides are likely be written by a local since all things considered, sending a travel writer out from London or Sydney, to write about somewhere, thousands of miles away, is curious. Even arrogant. And certainly costly.
Travel writers must accept there are good regional journalists, both local and/or expatriate, who need only follow the publishing brief. And should their writing fall short, it can always be polished by an editor.
A former travel guide writer, I was always conscious that ‘Joe Public’ normally only gets one annual holiday. I therefore made damn sure my advice was correct. In Bali, I once drove 50 miles to check an hotel when the owner didn’t even offer me a drink. And I waited an hour to meet the owner of “Rick’s Café” in Casablanca. Ditto.
Such energies were not always supported by the publisher. As writer, I had first refusal to an update when due to editorial ignorance, I was not always free. Like requiring a revision on a Muslim country during the Ramadan fast. Or a giving me a three week deadline to update Malaysia, during the rainy season (typical of the AA Essential Guides).
A major UK publisher went ahead, without my knowledge, and reprinted my Seychelles guide, three years after the original printing. The new edition bore my name, but it had not been updated. The reason given was that it was not cost effective…
I had a similar experience with a guide to Oman, a country whose development I’ve followed since 1975. The publisher – Insight Guides – did a reprint, eight years after the first edition which I only discovered while browsing in a London bookshop. When I called to query what was going on, the editor said they’d done a ‘desk job.’
A desk job! On a country such as Oman where change is like a thunderbolt. I will say no more, except to suggest that comments made by the paying public on an internet site tend to have more credibility that many a guide-book.