Travel writing is often an extension of the travel industry

“Unlike the oil industry, which is scrutinized at all levels, travel writing has become an extension of the industry. With few exceptions, travel writing and travel sections share the singular goal of helping consumers spend their money pursuing the dream of a perfect trip. They seldom write critical reviews; only articles about what to do and what to buy and how to experience a destination. This “feel-good” approach is rare even in lifestyle journalism, which is where to find the travel sections. Other lifestyle or back-of-the-book journalists thrive on critical reviews, explaining how and why they judge movies as great or miserable; whether the food at a restaurant is mediocre or exquisite; and describing music concerts as electric or boring. Imagine if movie reviewers only discussed their favorite films, if restaurant critics only wrote about their preferred haunts and music critics never wrote a scathing review of a badly performed opera. That is what travel writing has become.”
–Elizabeth Becker, Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism (2013)

Posted by | Comments (4)  | February 17, 2014
Category: Travel Quote of the Day

4 Responses to “Travel writing is often an extension of the travel industry”

  1. Andrea Kirkby Says:

    Along with this, I’ve noticed a shift in the travel sections to writing about ‘destination’ hotels and restaurants, rather than the place itself. Travel is being laid out as a consumer item – and that’s true even of what might once have been adventure travel; “ride a camel across the Sahara with Enjoyable Tours” or “Blow up railway tracks in Jordan with the Lawrence Of Arabia Experience”… There’s a relentless trivialisation which insists that a day in a monastery makes you a Buddhist, one week’s martial arts training makes you a black belt, and you can take the pilgrimage to Santiago in a week of two-hour hike-bites.

    The good thing? We have the internet now. I haven’t read a Sunday newspaper travel section for years.

  2. Tim Says:

    I consider travel writing to be independent consumer advice. Warning a traveller about a bad hotel is just as important as recommending a good one.

    It’s a shame that some bloggers and travel writers think that their job is to promote tourism rather than help travellers.

  3. The Enraged French Chef and Other Disasters | Take Five Says:

    […] must meet his or her opposite. And the story teller must visualize both in action. And it is a problem for travel writers. When they take on the job of “selling perfect trips”, they tend to give up the power […]

  4. DEK Says:

    If you look in the classics of travel literature you will find absolutely no helpful advice.

    This is why, fifty or more years on, they are still as valuable and enjoyable to read as they were when they were first published, while yesterday’s travel section of a newspaper or lavishly-produced travel magazine has information of such a short shelf-life value to a would-be traveler and no interest at all as literature.

    But travel is hard work and most who read the travel sections really don’t want to travel. They want to be at a nice destination and neither miss anything interesting nor spend more than they need to. This is the market being served by travel writing. Trying to write something that might qualify as travel literature is hard work — and it doesn’t pay very well — which is why so many people prefer to produce helpful, consumer-oriented travel writing — which by touting services and accommodations can help pay the writer’s way — than try to produce travel literature.

    Travel writing and travel literature are different products created for different markets and we ought not complain that one is not the other.