Can We Be Frank?


‘Not so gushy.’

This was one of my first instructions when I started writing travel for The Telegraph.

As the bulk of my writing has always been for magazines I have always adopted the requisite tone when reviewing hotels and spas – enthusiastic and positive. Generally glossing over the bad bits, highlighting the good.

The Telegraph wanted something more gutsy, more honest, more critical.

It took me a while to get it. But then I realised that nobody wants a bland review. Not the readers, nor the hotel.

The readers want to know good and bad. And if it’s all good, then they don’t trust the review.

But I’m aware there are ramifications from pointing out a place’s negatives. The hotel might be upset; the PR might get it in the neck.

Recently I went to Viva Mayr, an Austrian detox clinic with my friend Nadine (Baggott, a beauty influencer) to review it for the newspaper and for Red magazine.

There were good things (amazing rooms, beautiful location, plentiful attention) and some things I was more skeptical about (some of the more way out treatments, the expensive supplements, the break-a-window bread rolls). It’s a very low calorie regime (famously where the A listers go to drop 10lbs) and I wrote about my friend fainting and then throwing up.

It sounded horrendous. But as I pushed Nadine along the corridor in a wheel chair to get her an IV drip I had one thought – this is great copy.

So I wrote about it. For Red first actually.

And the PR may have felt slightly uncomfortable when went up on line. But it engaged the audience. Many of whom were keen to go.

A bland review might be easier to digest initially, but I think more balanced ones reap dividends in the end.