Tag Archives: frommers

Lonely Planet: We don’t accept freebies – except when we do

Lonely PlanetThe Age today digs a little deeper into Lonely Planet’s editorial policies following the Thomas Kohnstamm affair and the both the Melbourne daily newspaper and the travel icon emerge from the encounter looking more than a little worse for wear. The Age contrasts the strict editorial policies of Lonely Planet regarding its policies on freebies and desk-updates with comments from authors. Much more damaging, if true, are the admissions Lonely Planet rep Piers Pickard makes, particularly the pattern in which clear rules (no freebies, no “desk updates”) collapse under the weight of reality after closer questioning.

On freebies Pickard says

Lonely Planet lets its authors accept free entry to state-run institutions such as museums or national parks. Prodded further, he says the company also allows freebies when obtained through a tourist office. He says the wording of its policy will be tightened further in future books to close any perceived loophole.

And, about desk updates

“We don’t do desk updates. We’re really proud of the fact that we invest a lot of time and money sending our authors as far as we possibly can around the world,” he says.

Were there any exceptions? Mr Pickard pauses. He says there are cases where writers cannot travel to dangerous areas, such as parts of war-torn Afghanistan. “But I want to make it really, really clear, we go so much further than our competitors,” he says.

Asked about [allegations of desk updates regarding the South Australian outback], Mr Pickard admits that the time and cost taken to travel to particular areas is sometimes too high — particularly in the face of tight publication deadlines. He says the chunks of outback untouched by Lonely Planet will be updated in a subsequent edition, by which time the relevant portions of its guidebook will be six years out of date.

“We can’t cover the whole of the Australian outback. That’s like imagining our authors sleep in every single hotel,” he says.

The Washington Post recently compared Lonely Planet’s freebies policy with five other major guidebook publishers and it demonstrates just what a high bar LP sets for itself compared to the competition. It’s sad seeing Lonely Planet hoist with its own petard – its paying a high price for idealistic but impractical editorial policies which are inevitably flouted in Lonely Planetpractice. What’s becoming crystal clear is the public relations price of maintaining these impossible to uphold policies, so expect idealism to give way to pragmatism (even at the guidebook born on the hippy trail). However, if the experiences of Lonely Planet contributor “interviewed” for The Age article, Zora O’Neil, are to believed then the Lonely Planet still probably has a thing or two to teach The Age about editorial standards. O’Neil in her blog ‘Roving Gastronome’ labels the article ‘tacky, lazy journalism’

I had a sinking feeling after my phone interview with Peter Munro. It was a good twenty minutes of him fishing for me to say Lonely Planet was hypocritical…

I spent a lot of time in my phone interview saying, in fact, that I thought LP generally has great intentions, and maybe it had written its freebie policy without a loophole in mind. And executives have been very responsive to my comments on the freebies issue, which is more than I can say for any other employer I’ve ever had.

But because I was uncooperative and my rational response doesn’t make a great story, Munro just resorted to quoting my statements on this blog–without even attributing them, so Age readers can’t come here and read my full comments. Worse, it’s in a larger context that makes it sound like I have taken freebies while on the job with LP, which is completely untrue.

The latest chapter in this unfortunate affair which is doing nothing for the reputation of Lonely Planet, guide books, travel writers or telling travellers anything they couldn’t already guess. But like a traffic accident, you can’t bring yourself to avert your gaze.

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Free room and board in exchange for four or five hours work a day(?)

Arthur Frommer in his blog today asked whether anybody has any feedback on HelpExchange.net, a service which lists farms, hostels and the like, which are seeking ‘volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation (board and lodging)’. Mostly focused on Europe and the Americas – very little in Asia.

“Premier” (e.g. useful) membership to Helpx.net costs a “nominal” 20 euros for 2 years (2 euros for 2 years sounds nominal to me…), but, I guess, IF it lives up to its promises it could be a wise investment..

It looks very much like a site on which your mileage may vary, but it may be of interest.

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Guidebooks: neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so

Imagine having one month to track down information as broad as the prices at Laundromats in Seattle, the details of the Tijuana border crossing, where to find a decent sandwich in Bakersfield, an overview of LA’s nightlife, hiking trails in Yosemite, museum hours in Portland, bus schedules in San Francisco, and the location of a decent tourist office in Boise. Now imagine trying to do that in a place with no reliable transportation schedules, dial-up Internet connections (when there are Internet connections, or even phones), thousands of miles of unpaved roads, and heavily accented Northeast Brazilian Portuguese as the language of choice (Thomas Kohnstamm – Former Lonely Planet contributor)

In light of the Lonely Planet shemozzle I thought I would get round to writing a post I’d had in mind for a while. Guidebooks – the good, the bad and the unnecessary.

RomeThere are a multiplicity of guidebook series – Transitionsabroad.com has a decent run-down of the characteristics of some of the major players, in it particular highlights the drawbacks of each, which correspond almost exactly with my thoughts.

Personally I am drawn to Frommer’s when I am planning a trip by the ‘Best of’ lists and the uncluttered layout. I dislike the (admittedly handsome) DK Guides with a passion – at least for anything practical – and avoid the Let’s Go guides because of some glaring errors I have come across. I have found Moon Guides excellent for on-the-road reference where available, but have generally relied on LP’s as the most reliable (!). I haven’t had a chance to check them out but I have a grudging fondness for Rick Steve’s guides which contain no extraneous material – a country guide may concentrate on only a handful of cities or areas – opininated reviews and charming hand-drawn maps of questionable utility inviting you get lost. This almost directed approach creates a Rick Steves’ trail not unlike the more infamous LP trail.

If you are in the market for a guidebook remember they vary drastically in quality within series – try to find experiences of people who have actually used the book, then spend time in the bookstore browsing those you are interested in (or even better check for it in your local library). What’s more, keep in mind that ALL guidebooks are out of date:

Sure, there’s a disclaimer that says the information was accurate as of some date, but truthfully, the guidebook is only accurate during the time that the harried researcher/writer is standing on site at the open attraction/airline gateway/hotel/etc. Guidebooks are out of date before they’ve gone to print (Why Your Guidebook Is Wrong).

Wikitravel and World66 are noble attempts to create free, up-to-date, travel guides which are coming into their own which I urge you contribute to (although relying soley on them may still be unwise). This article in The Atlantic point to the fIbn Battutahuture relying on a diversity of internet sites – no travel guide can match google maps, the sheer number of reviews on chowhound and traveladvisor, not to mention the various travel blogging sites give you an incredible diversity of perspectives.

Guidebooks are still incredibly useful for planning and for giving you the lowdown on a particuar place. Ultimately, however, perhaps the best travel guide to take with you isn’t a travel guide at all. Why not ditch the LP or Rough Guide and try to recreate the footsteps of a great traveller, say Ibn Battutah, or if you’re heading to Europe try a specialist archelogical guide like the Oxford Archaeological Guides. Or travel light and just leave them all at home.

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You may have missed…

Tiger alleges it has suffered from anti-competitive behaviour. Ahh well, at least the airline plans on adding capacity to two of its most popular routes, Singapore-Perth and Singapore-Ho Chi Minh City.

Australia is to seek an open skies agreement with the EU ‘Peter Harbison, executive chairman of the Centre for Asia Pacific, believes an EU-Australian open skies could be a boon for Qantas’ Jetstar in opening up new low-fare routes‘ (Via Serious Sam).

A day after the Premier labled Perth aiport an ‘embarrassment’ Westralia Airports Corporation announced a $500m upgrade. The good people of Launceston will have to make-do with $20m.

Strong winds delayed flights out of Sydney.

Australia will ratify the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (the Montreal Convention 1999).

The excellent EuroCheapo accomodation site has branched out into European airfares with Cheaposearch Flights.

The Independent has an excellent article about what actually happens to baggage after check-in and some hints about what to do if your luggage is lost. Even if you can’t be there to experience the thrills and spills of lost luggage now you can play the game! (Via TravelWeekly). A guide to Airport Transfers at Heathrow Airport may just be timely.

Speaking of luggage Gatwick has ‘finally overturned the one carry-on bag rule‘.

Financial Times has an interesting article on Jetstar in Japan and ‘ the difficulty of applying the no-frills model in Japan, a country in which fuller-than-full service is the norm’.

Beggars are to banned from Florence – if they do not remain standing.

Lonely Planet has released a new series of national park guides.

Visiting Stonehenge may soon become a good deal cheaper and well… more plastic… for Australians.

Youtoob footage of one of the world’s most dangerous airports.

You can never read too many packing tips, particularly if they happen to be good.

“We have saved Luang Prabang’s buildings, but we have lost its soul.” CNN on the effect of mass tourism in Laos.

New tourism rules at the Vatican Museums.

Independent Traveller surveys the best and worst toilets – the best I’ve experienced were at Raffles in Singapore – the Singapore Sling STILL wasn’t worth it – and suggests Budget Alternatives to Classic Destinations.

Bali is surely ripe for re-discovery by Australian travellers.

Finally, Frommers have released updates to their guidebooks for