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The problems with travel recommendations


1. Depends on personal tastes. For example, if someone likes windsurfing, they might recommend northern Brazil. But if you’re not into wind-dependent sports, you may not enjoy getting sandblasted by 30-knot winds everyday while you try to get a tan. If someone asks for a hotel recommendation, it’s helpful to know if it’s for a honeymoon or a place for their parents to crash for a night.  So much of a good tip depends on knowing that person’s preferences and understanding what they hope to get out of that particular trip.  Generic tips on social media — or any other media — are just that… generic.  (This may explain why there is an inundation of new apps and sites that help visitors tune experiences by taste. Still, this doesn’t solve the following issue.)

2. Many places get ruined by travel tips. Picture your favorite local cafe or bakery — a place you visit regularly. Now picture three tour buses parked in front, a queue out the door and a menu that has international airport-like prices. Few truly authentic places can handle mass-media tips and retain the quality that made them charming enough to write about in the first place.  (Wait, you say, one tip isn’t going to put make it that popular. Depends where that tip is… and it’s seldom just one tip. The travel media likes to feed on its own content.) I’m always wary of public recommendations for this reason. Sometimes they’re good; sometimes you arrive four months too late.  But you need to consider if the place can even handle a dose of mass tourism before you start promoting them.

3. From a marketing perspective, a lot of destinations put great emphasis on tourist information or answering social media requests for info. Here’s the thing: they’re still visiting your destination… they’ll find someplace to eat and stay and they’ll likely have a fine time and you’re sure to get their money. Plus, most people look to guidebooks, TripAdivisor, Yelp, Google, newspaper travel sections, online magazines, friends and other sources for tips. Your money and effort is better spent 1) getting people to visit in the first place  (i.e. using those activities to elevate your destination on key searches) 2) making sure the quality of the product is high enough that your visitors will promote it for you and want to come back.

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