Giddy Gushing from the New York Times’ Travel Section

Speaking of the travel industry, you can always rely on Arthur Frommer to point out the nuttiness in our midst. His blog is always an interesting read and he’s not afraid to stick it to those not looking out for our best interests. He gives the New York Times a good skewering in hispost regarding giddy journalism about super-elegant travel.

“Then in an article about how European travel in autumn costs less than in summer, Michelle Higgins cites as her key examples the fact that in the autumn, the Four Seasons Hotel in Prague reduces its room rates to $345, while the Ritz Carlton in Berlin charges only $320 a room. What a revelation!”

When I used to work in Manhattan and constantly walked among people who had loads of money to blow, I still wondered, “How many people actually travel like those stories in the New York Times?” Now that I’m living in a more typical part of the U.S., where people don’t obsess as much about impressing each other, I really wonder who travels like that.

I am out and about globetrotting a lot, sometimes staying in the luxury palaces or reviewing them for an assignment. I run into dot-com millionaires, class action attorneys, hedge fund managers, and commercial real estate developers who are plotting their next skyscraper. In other words, not normal people. That can’t possibly be a big enough market to make up more than a tiny fraction of any publication’s readership. As Arthur says,

“Are there no grown-ups on the travel staff of The New York Times? Is there no senior editor to call a meeting of its junior writers to discuss what is and what isn’t of relevance to average-income Americans?”

Well, I’m guessing that it’s the bosses themselves pushing these gush-a-ramas for zillionaires. They see which advertisers are paying their salaries and adjust the stories to fit. The Four Seasons has a much bigger ad budget than hotels appealing to the other 98 percent of the population. The Times may be one of those high and mighty publications that brags its travel writers don’t accept hosting or sponsorship, but that doesn’t mean they’re not heavily influenced by those they are covering. A $75,000 weekly ad speaks much louder than any press junket…

  1. Ron Mader

    No more gush-a-ramas!

    Good on Arthur Frommer. I always enjoy the articles that that are referred from Tim Leffel’s blog. (I do not read the magazine or guidebooks I always mistake Frommers with Froders and never read either as a result.)

    It’s time to inform the traveler who respects value and who is not on the luxury budget. Here’s our challenge for 2008!

  2. Anon

    As someone who has written for the Times as a freelancer, I would like to add that the “no hosting” policy doesn’t mean they’re going to pay you enough money to cover the expenses of those luxury hotels they love to feature. Which means most of the writers doing those articles are either independently wealthy already or have a spouse who is really paying the mortgage (and the travel expenses). So you tend to get elite, wealthy people writing about elite trips that no normal person–certainly not a travel writer–can afford. It’s a bubble world.

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