Frommer Watch: Down With Corrupt User-Generated Travel Sites

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


In our latest (and first) installment of Frommer Watch™, Arthur Frommer is throwing the gauntlet down on user-generated travel review sites. Citing his own ill-advised foray into user-generated advice during the pre-internet days of yore, Frommer recounts how his own guides once contained a “Readers’ Selections” section. That was, until he began to realize that his supposedly authentic tips and advice from ordinary travelers turned out to be, more often than not, coming from less than honest moles working on behalf of manipulative restaurants and hotels.

Nowadays, with the proliferation of user-generated travel sites all over the web (the most prolific newcomer being the spinoff,, Arthur wonders whether theses sites “are being manipulated or, in some cases, operated with less than professional standards.” He finishes by concluding that it’s inevitable that these sites will fall prey to such manipulation and that the problem is basically “insurmountable.”

I am personally shocked — shocked! — that there is manipulation going on at these sites. I just spent the last, oh 20 seconds or so contemplating this very dilemma and I’m ready to share my own opinions on this debate (for a more thought-out and actual debate, check out the lively comment section below the above-linked article, with Pauline Frommer herself weighing in on her father’s side).

I tend to be suspect of anything that seems to capture the adoration and hearts of the general public (see American Idol, the American version of The Office, Titanic, the Snuggle, and 401K Retirement Plans) but at the same time, I’m just as suspect of so-called expert advice (see Gene Shalit, CNBC, and the Catholic Church). That being said, there are a few, trusted individuals who I either know personally, or have followed their advice long enough to know that they can be trusted, whether that advice concerns a certain band, movie, restaurant, travel locale, etc . . .

I guess what I’m saying is this: I think you should follow those guides that you trust based on past experience, whether they be a giant book publisher, or some guy on TripAdvisor from Kalamazoo that really knows his hotels in Playa del Carmen, and avoid those dubious raves from strangers and the herding masses.

Of course, the philosophy that I actually follow in my own life is to not listen to anyone, strike out with abandonment, make both giant mistakes as well as amazing discoveries, but ultimately find out via my own experiences (bad or good). You know, so I can then give advice to everyone else.

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