There have been dark mutterings about travel writing too – about how it’s rare now to find negative reviews in magazines and papers. Why? Because the writer’s trip has been funded by the hotel or tour company (who may well be taking out advertising too) so the water becomes very muddy. But this is nothing new. In an ideal world, the paper or magazine would fund the writer for the whole trip – this still happens on a rare few papers (the New York Times comes to mind) so the writer can be totally, truly independent. But no UK paper has the budget. So, unless a writer has personal wealth, one has to rely on freebies from the hotel, resort or travel company. And that is why you will see the same old places being reviewed all over the shop – usually glowingly. I don’t like that. What I do like is Queen of Retreats. I came across this outfit a few years ago, when I was looking for independent recommendations of great spas. Someone on Twitter put me in touch with Caroline Sylger Jones, who runs the site and she was great – hugely knowledgeable, highly discerning, full of integrity.
|Caroline at HHH in Greece.|
Anyhow, what I really love is that the reviews are honest. If something isn’t quite right, they point it out. If it’s not ideal for a certain kind of person, they say it like it is. Although retreat venues do host the writer, they understand from the get-go that there is no guarantee of a shining review. Obviously reviews are subjective – how could they not be? But the reviewers are experienced enough to gauge if a place would suit others, even if it didn’t suit him or herself.
"It’s not smart or ritzy and you will need to turn a blind eye and a forgiving heart to the less than shiny bits. The decor isn’t inspired – if your idea of a retreat is all about contemporary interiors, fluffy bathrobes and spa ‘journeys’ look elsewhere."
Yes, it covers some of the big spas and retreats – the ones that have PRs, the ones you will read about everywhere, but it covers them honestly – not because an ad manager is hanging over the editorial team’s head. However it also covers small retreats, the ones that have no budget for advertising or PR, the ones that otherwise wouldn’t get coverage, and that’s why I really love it.
|Serenity Retreat in gorgeous Greece|
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