Are travel magazines in the business of only giving a good judgement?

I have to admit, I’ve almost collected all the editions of the Lonely Planet Magazine and the Conde Nast Traveller since they launched their India editions. However, I don’t read them much. This past month was a reminder why.

While I’m still to write a full review of my visit to the Hilton Shillim, if you read this post, you’d know I had a troubled stay there. I was one of the first guests to make a reservation there, back in February 2013, when they were only a month old after opening. I know new hotels have problems, and so I made a reservation for July, hoping all the issues would have gone away by then. That was a blind bet, and I could have cancelled anytime.

And then I read a review in the Conde Nast Traveller India which cemented the trip. It states:

All accommodation at the 350-acre Shillim Estate is in private villas, and each comes with butler service included. There are 99 villas in total, 15 with private pools attached. The Spa Pool Villas, with their exposed stone walls and open air verandas, allow the resort’s surroundings to set the mood. Cool winds and birdsong come drifting in from outside; completing the experience is an outdoor shower, private deck and pool, where guests can book a Watsu massage while floating on the water.

Nowhere does it state that only 1/3 of the 99 villas are currently operational. The rest are not. That the Spa Pools have crabs inside, it is so close to nature, and the outdoor shower has moss accumulated all around, especially when you go in the rainy season. Well, I had to experience it myself.

To be more direct, it just looks like a press release from the property. My question is reiterated when a mainline Indian newspaper “The Hindu” writes all the flowery language as well.

Luxury at the Hilton Shillim is in the little things – like the personal butler who comes with every villa or the little buggy that he will ferry you around in. Imagine not having to walk more than a few hundred metres to get anywhere – it was nothing short of being treated like royalty.

Hey, what about the fact that your butler could not even organise internet for you in one go, and they assigned a new butler on the second day of my stay because the first one was going away somewhere on vacation or something.

Now, I’ve written for travel magazines back in the day as well, and I know there are Familiarisation trips, media junkets and what not. As blogs become more mainstream, even blogs are being included in these efforts.

But, is the real deal, that only the positives have to be conveyed and not a realistic assessment? What are your views? Have you ever read a travel magazine and then booked up a place only to have a different opinion?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. To be honest – all the time – concerning flights in premium cabins. It sure is MUCH MUCH better to fly up front, but realistically, most expectations I had when I took my first flights in premium cabins weren’t met.
    I mean – the cost of one of these tickets is pretty high, be it paid in miles or paid in cash, and still ALMOST on every occasion I felt slightly cheated afterwards. Right, the seat usually makes up for most of the comfort experience, but the food and amenities are really lousy/outright crap. It leaves me wondering, again and again, that there are whole forums discussing the quality of amenity kits, when in reality, they are almost worthless pieces of junk.
    Cheapo made plastic containers (aka amenity kit) of sorts containing miniature cosmetics that are inferior to those that you get for free with the purchase of a perfume at a perfumery in Europe. They are usually not even worth taking home. Unbelievable, how much a lot of people deem them wort on ebay (e.g.LH Rimowa).
    Looking at how little a really decent meal in a good restaurant on the ground can be had for and how small the difference is to a meal in economy, I simply can’t believe how bad inflight meals really are, be it in C/J or F. How much you would be willing to pay for one of these “premium cabin meals” in a restaurant on the ground? Maybe USD30 at most, given the poor quality. All the reviews on the web telling me how good the food was on all these flights, when the only really good food I ever had on a plane was on a TG flight in F from HKG to BKK. I will never forget the lousy food I had on several LH flights in F in 2011. Apart from that, nothing beats a pre-flight meal in your favorite restaurant, before leaving!
    Premium cabins are nice for the seat comfort and the ground handling, bringing ease to mind at busy airports. If you’re lucky, the service is good, too, but no guarantee for that, even in F, according to all these blogs. And that is for a product that can cost more than USD 10000. Nobody would accept THAT cost/use relation with any other product category on the ground…
    Just my 10 cents. So, all you bloggers, please come back to reality. Premium class travel makes flying easier, but not a culinary event or anything particularly “elite”.

  2. In addition to the New York Times, whose travel writers are not allowed to receive comped trips or other perks from travel suppliers they are reviewing, the most interesting, enlightening and honest consumer travel publication today is Afar magazine ( ).

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