As some of you know we have a bunch of writers (18 at the moment) who we pay to write for us. Some doing research, others writing about their piece of turf and so on. Essentially in this regard we're no different to any other travel publisher.
One rule we do have though for all writers (including the founders) is a strict no comp/free travel rule. ie., we don't accept any kind of discounts or free stuff in any way shape or form for anything.
We've worked in this way since the get go, and it's very important to us, but what I wanted to ask is is it important to you?
We're absolutely not planning to change how we do things, but I know this issue is being discussed at another publisher and I'm curious what your take is.
So, if you could spare me a couple of moments to jot down your thoughts, I'd really appreciate it.
I think your methods work well.
#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
FYI I took a quick look at the Mukdahan write up. Ref SC residence hotel, Boss Bar has been closed for quite a while.
Ref SubMukda Grand - Immigration is no longer located near the pier. It moved to a building near the bridge, eight km outside of town.
#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
I think that it needn't even be a discussion. Taking discounts, goods or services can bias you - especially as some better places may not give such while lower quality places may. Also, I often find something is better when I'm paying less for it - or not paying for it at all, it warps my judgement. That's why a restaurant recently gave us a free drinks after they screwed up our order - it makes us think better of them when things get screwed up.
Even with this policy of no freebees, it's next to impossible for reviewers to remain 100% bias-free. After several trips to SEA, I've become more or less immune to all reviews. I now find them helpful, but also realize that they should be taken with a grain of salt.
#5 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Posts: 1,111
Just curious who the other publisher discussing this is. Anyone we might have heard of?
If researchers get offered freebies or discounts because they're working for a travel guide, wouldn't that mean they're not working anonymously? Even without a freebie, if the GH or restaurant owner knows they're being reviewed they're quite likely to make sure the reviewer gets better looked after than an average customer would be .
On the other hand some places give everyone a discount if they stay more than a certain number of nights etc. Quite often the guesthouses I stay in give all their guests a free buffet on Christmas day.
If you refused that kind of discount/freebie it would look a bit odd.
@SBE - sorry should have been clearer. Some publishers allow their writers to contact hotels beforehand, perhaps with an assignment letter etc, to arrange a comped/discounted stay, with the hotel knowing who they're writing for. This is also common with some newspapers and travel magazines. Anonymity doesn't come into it in cases like that.
Sure if our writers stay a few nights they're fine to nego a discounted stay on that basis - as you say would look odd otherwise -- we're talking about writers showing up, saying I write for whoever, can you give me a free night please?
@Madmac - tks will get those updated.
@daawgon @casey thanks
excellent comments across the board, but i think SBE's input is particularly important. if the hotel or restaurant knows they are being reviewed, it seems likely that the reviewer will get special attention, and the problem with that, is the reviewer's experience won't be similar to the experience of the random person who walks in off the street. the review should be based on what an average person off the street will experience. in that sense, even reviews from people who know that local language and culture are biased, because they can navigate any given situation better than a first-time backpacker to southeast asia. i'm not against reviewers getting free stuff, but it will skew the results and make the information less meaningful for your average travelfisher.
it looks like the votes are in, and we agree that you should take the high road and keep to the no freebie policy. having said that, i appreciate how much work the travelfish writers do for not much money, so perhaps you could develop a hybrid policy where regular reviews maintain the no freebie policies but features and special articles can contact the hotel or restaurant in advance and get as much free stuff out of them as possible. what do you think? cheers and keep up the good work.
I think exacto's on to a good idea - freebies for special articles, etc. Maybe keep the focus of this on activities rather than accom and restaurants (unless it's something out of the ordinary). In that way, travellers can learn about some the Ã¡dventure/experiences that are to be had that may be out of budget to travel writers otherwise. I'm thinking Gibbon Experiences, your bike tour through Bali or Gunung Agung climb, an EasyRider tour around Vietnam, some of the food tour/cooking classes.
I follow quite a few travel blogs and generally find that when they do a review a guesthouse or hotel which was provided as a comp, I find it hard to take it too seriously. They end up in much better rooms than average, and have all the freebies laid out that aren't necessarily provided to us 'regular' guests. Keep the status quo for accom and restaurants.
PS - Sorry to hear about the food poisoning - that must suck!
Again though, for me an experience will be judged very differently if it is free than if it is paid for. Of course, a professional could put some of that bias aside . . . but also, if an EasyRider trip is comped, I'm guessing you're also going to get the best and most accommodating driver they have. I think the minute those running the 'concern' know you are writing about it the whole experience changes, just as if you don't pay for something your perception of it is changed.
We pay writer's expenses for that kinda thing (so when Adam did GibbonX or Sarah did all those cooking courses in Hanoi for eg they paid for it and we reimbursed them -- though we didn't pay for Sarah's gym classes afterwards to drop the kilos!).
Just to be clear, we're not planning on moving to any kind of comp system - as it says in the footer "Travelfish always pays its way, no exceptions." - but I was more curious if that was important to you -- seems generally it is.
Couple of years ago the owner of my $5/night GH in Hpa An in Myanmar mentioned that the LP researcher had been there just the week before.
I asked how he knew it was an LP researcher, and he said:
-Well, the guy hired me to drive him around all the accommodation in town so it was pretty obvious he wasn't an ordinary tourist ... and I recognized him straight away anyway.
-Yeah. His picture is in the LP guidebook.
Hey Casey, you planning on coming back anytime soon? Man, things are changing fast out here, and for the better.
#15 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
maybe when you 1st started travelfish this was a good policy , but times change , i still think you are the best travel resource for south east asia , but nowadays there are 10000's of travel blogs/writers giving away information and most of these are paid by the hotels/airlines or countries to come and promote their business or countries.
changing your business model is a way any good company stays in business, and to me it sounds like one of your major out goings is paying back your writers for hotels and guest houses. i like many people have trusted this site for good information for many years and that would not change if you got a few free rooms , of course full disclosure would be need for each review
@MADMAC - what an odd location to post this question. I'm arranging three variants on a trip for next February, one involves going to Thong Lor cave in central Laos and heading back to BKK via Mook. I'm also considering Myanmar and a trip to the Flores. It is really going to depend on which trip I can get someone to join me on. My girlfriend is moving to Ann Arbor to do her MBA so she'd like me to come back for a visit in February, but I can't bring myself to exchange a February in SE Asia for a February in Michigan.
I don't know how you afford to pay 18 people. I'm going to Chumphon, Bang Saphan and Prachuap soon and would be willing to update your info for free.
#18 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Casey - figured it was as good a place as any...
#19 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
"Man, things are changing fast out here, and for the better"
Which new things are good?
#20 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
We have a speight of new restaraunts that have opened with a lot of different kind of cuisine. This new Japanese place is fantastic. Really good food.
We have a new bar that serves first class burgers and chilli dogs with a good live band.
We have several new hotels, one of which is right on the river and has outstanding rooms with balconies overlooking the water for 650 a night.
I'm not a fan of the Big C that opened, but we have one now and a new Makro as well. If you're into the mall atmosphere the Big C is OK. The one big plus from a living here standpoint there's more food options available.
There is also a new Yoga studio for people who enjoy Yoga and Tae Kwon Do for people who are into that. The TKD has been here for about six years, but the Yoga is only a year old.
So yeah, options for things to do continues to increase. City is really growing. The only negative that is going with it right now is traffic. More and more cars on the road and the city just wasn't designed for it.
#21 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
Sounds good. I wouldn't worry about traffic. Until a city has more than 500,000 people traffic isn't much of a problem.
#22 LeonardCohen1 has been a member since 24/7/2012. Posts: 2,148
Leonard, belated reply -- thanks for the offer -- much appreciated But best way for readers to feed in updates is via the destination / accommodation comment boxes (at the bottom of each page) -- I'll keep an eye out for any updates from you.
Bang Saphan -- jealous. I've not been there in oh so long, think it is one of the true undersung destinations in Thailand. Many, many fond memories.