News & Reviews News Where’s you source of luxury travel inspiration?

Here’s a question for you to dwell over during your morning coffee/cocaine/intake of new baseless election conspiracy theories: which publications do you read and trust (or just read) when looking up your next trip?  

There are two different types of reviews: those that inspire and offer a glimpse of what’s to come, and then those that give details that allow you to make an informed decision.  The latter is what I struggle to find.  And it’s not surprising.

Hold up, what about Influencers?

I’m not sure if covid was sent to kill influencers, but we shouldn’t prejudge and assume it wasn’t.  My desire to visit a property is directly proportional to how few influencers are there.  My beloved Park Hotel Vitznau, the hotel we chose to get married in, seems to have decided that this year they would kidnap anyone with long legs, a camera and a proclivity for getting pissed on champagne in the bath.  I find no value in any so-called influencer, we all know they’re getting paid for posing for a picture and reflecting their honest feelings – it’s like watching porn and assuming that they’re all genuinely having a great time.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a review by porn thespians where they described it as “not great”, but maybe my intense Googling still needs a few more hours of effort.

Now where was I?  Ah yes.  Critiquing hotels is tough. I like to think of my style of writing to being tickled by someone in a ball pit; we’re all having a great time, but it’s incredibly awkward.  If you want to review a film, all you need is £10 for a ticket and an additional £10 for a slab of butter covered in corn.  These days you don’t/can’t even leave your house.  If you piss off the director, you may not get invited to the next press junket, but you’re still going to be able to see their movie.  If you want to write reviews about hotels and you’re working for Conde Nast, the last thing you want to be doing in a Four Seasons is finishing your comprehensive review by comparing it to Satan’s butthole.

It’s much harder to review than most sectors.  Write a review that the airline hates?  Get some more miles and fly again.  With millions of customers per year they’re unlikely to seek revenge.  Luxury hotels are different.  If I’m offending someone, there’s times where I’m not exactly welcome back.  My wife then has to face these suppliers at luxury travel trade shows.  Sometimes I’m not the most popular man.  What I’m saying is, I sacrifice my entire marriage just for YOU, dear reader.  You’re welcome.

So it’s not surprising that to find most reviews focusing on either pure positives, or babble on about absolutely irrelevant history of the property – like knowing who Frank Sinatra previously gang banged in this resort will enhance my stay.  I’m pleased for the man, I really am, but I don’t think it’s a current amenity so it’s not that relevant. A lot of the reviews read like a history piece, which makes me wonder if the author ever visited or just looked it up on Google Earth and Wikipedia. There’s endless cliches thrown around, with my current favourite being how every sea facing property happens to offer the freshest fish I’ll ever eat – soon I’ll be stuffing embryo’s into my mouth.

So here’s where I look to try and block out the noise.  Here’s where I start the journey into my next journey.

FlyerTalk

The best forum for luxury travel on these fine Internets.  Might also be the only one.  A great resource, but be careful to take note of who is saying what.  You may start to believe you’re discovering a trend on a property, but chances are you’re just reading the same opinions by the same people over and over again.  And if it’s negative it was probably me.

Telegraph Luxury

I cannot bring myself to subscribe since they started supporting Brexit like it were the smallpox vaccine.  Having said that, the wonderful John O’Ceallaigh still freelances and can be found offering honest insights on Instagram and Twitter.  I’m not just saying this as next time lunch is on him, but he is easily one of the most experienced luxury authors today.

Elite Traveller

The most bat shit mental shit that bats have ever created….since covid-19?  Maybe.  I truly love this magazine, if nothing else their commitment to every issue showing a selection of watches that cost more than a Porsche Taycan.  However, in between showing things that I hope to never buy, it has a rather good selection of hotels.  Yes, they seem to think only the penthouse exists in hotels and the cheapest room starts normally no less than $20,000/n, but you can’t knock’em for sticking to the actual definition of elite.

Financial Times Travel and How To Spend It

I sometimes think the FT editor suffers multiple personalities.  One week it’s a trip to Angkor Wat and for your quadzillion dollars they’ll desecrate it for you by chiseling your face into any statue you want, the next they’re suggesting camping out at Four Seasons Total Landscaping and catching your own dinner in the bins.  How To Spend It is more in tune with Telegraph Luxury and sits just to the side of snobbery that I like.

Conde Nast UK/International

A lot of people hate them, but I do enjoy “top XX hotels in the world” lists. I cannot be bothered with reading a massive editorial on every property and these lists are great for a skim through to then do more research into those that stand out.

Travel + Leisure

Like Conde Nast, I’ll mostly be here for the lists, even if it’s just to act completely shocked that they’re not neutral and the winners are garbage.

Departures Magazine

American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts is a commendable list.  It’s rare they have a real turd on there, so understandably their own magazine rarely goes off course either.

Tatler

More miss than hit lately, but there are some gems in there.

TripAdvisor

You may think I would include not Trip Advisor here, but I think it’s a good source – not for their rankings, but reading some of the more negative reviews and their issues.  I rarely find it wrong, even with properties like North Island I can see genuine reviews where they share my complaints.

Gallivanters Guide

RIP.  This was one of the last neutral publications.  I didn’t always agree with the editor, which was not surprising as our only commonality is that we’re British (and no, that doesn’t mean we all know each other and live 5 minutes away), but her insights always led to a better decision making process.  It’s a shame it doesn’t exist anymore.

My wife

She attends some of the major luxury travel exhibitions around the world and gets to meet the sales reps and general managers of the latest and greatest.  I then pretend six months later I discovered it first.

Conclusion

I’ve probably missed some, so apologies if your work is the finest in the world and I didn’t mention you.

So that’s my list; I’m interested to know yours.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 15th Nov '20

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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