Please Don't Turn Me Into Mr Ratty


There was a time when travel journalists were considered to be among the most intrepid writers on earth. If an editor needed to send a journalist away to write a complicated foreign piece, it was often a travel writer that they’d commission: someone who might have spent months with tribes, or gone on intrepid expeditions, or worked in difficult circumstances. Someone who could get on with the job without fuss, and who, when things went wrong (which they invariably do on journeys) could cope.

I don’t know whether it’s because these days anyone who files a caption on Instagram is considered a travel writer – and so PRs need to show them the ropes every step of the way – but, wherever I go, people seem to think I need constant hand-holding.

Recently, on assignment, I was met at a hotel not by one but by two PRs, who wanted to show me round. I was told a lunch had been arranged, so I could meet the General Manager. And then, when I got to my room, I found out that I had a dinner with a third PR, who told me pretty much the same corporate guff that the others had fed me earlier.

When writing about a travel destination, of course we want to know all the basics about the hotel at which we are staying. A brief synopsis of its history, its design, its key personnel and its USPs are incredibly useful (ideally on a printed A4 sheet in our room). But what real travel writers are there to do is to feel what the world beyond the hotel walls is like: to feel it and smell it, to talk to its people and soak in its soul.

Taking every minute of our precious time and cornering us into endless meetings in a hotel makes us feel like trapped rats in a corner. Desperate to get out. And a bit ratty.

Welcome us to your hotel, feed us useful information about the destination and send us off into the outside world, though, and we’ll scamper off happily, returning – when we are ready – to nest, and feed, and have our whiskers pampered in all those glorious facilities you would have liked to tell us about.

We won’t forget to write about your hotel when we write about the destination. Promise. We might even fall in love with it on our own – if we’re given the space.