Tuesday, November 27, 2012

There's bad travel writing everywhere....

...And this piece by "seasoned travel writer" James Marshall Crotty regarding his recent stay at the Aria in Las Vegas is proof of case for that argument.  (h/t: uggboy from MilePoint for the link)

As one commenter on MilePoint stated. "I stopped reading his rant when the "seasoned travel writer" seem surprised about the $20 resort fee."  And it was the resort fee that has Mr. Crotty all hot and bothered, a resort fee that he says was "never disclosed" to him until after his stay.  However, running through the Aria booking site one finds the resort fee prominently displayed before the reservation process is complete.

Aria screenshot w/booking fee
So IF Mr. Crotty is telling the truth and he DID, in fact, book the room on-site as he claims then it was not a case of the Aria omitting the booking fee, but it was a case of this "seasoned" travel writer not paying attention to what he was booking.  FWIW, the yellow highlight on the above screen shot is mine, the bolding is as/is on the website, so the fee was prominently displayed.

Here's Mr. Crotty's words on the resort fee:
First, there's the Aria front desk. It's modern and colorful in a 1990s Spago way. However, as with any deceptively labeled 5-star loser hotel front desk, once there, you learn that there all sorts of hidden fees you were never overtly, let alone covertly, told about when you booked a room online. For example, there's the $25 "Aria resort fee."

As an aside, I stayed at the Mandalay Bay hotel during the same time as Mr. Crotty stayed at the Aria. The main difference was I was an invited casino guest and, as such, received a lot lower rate than did this "seasoned travel writer".  However, even though I booked by phone the resort fee was still clearly disclosed as a part of our phone conversation, and in the confirmation e-mail that I received. 

I don't mean this post as some defense of the Aria, or any other MGM property.  I've never stayed at the Aria but I have walked through there, it's modern Vegas, bold, flashy and it gives the appearance and feeling of luxury to those who never get to experience it without all of the true costs associated with such.  Like most of Vegas, it's Louis Vuitton.  Faux luxury for the masses.  The thing is, that's OK.  Because people come to Vegas to experience and do things they otherwise wouldn't.  That the bed is actually wholesale, that the pillows are polyfil and not down feathers humanely harvested from pygmy swans, that the sheets aren't 10,000 count Eqyptian Cotton, or that the flatware isn't gold is of no consequence.  The important thing is that it looks nice.  Vegas understands that better than any other city. Why do you think 90% of the gaming areas are filled with penny and quarter slots?  That's where the demand is.

The larger issue, to my way of thinking, is the reduction of standards in travel reporting in today's media.

We've gotten to a point where anyone with a MacBook and a camera can spool up a blog or any reporter can be assigned to a "transportation" beat.  In Mr. Crotty's own HuffPo account he says that he's an education and politics writer. I've no doubt that he travels quite often, or that he might understand a thing or three about how to be from locale A to locale B.  But that doesn't make him a travel writer.  He obviously is lacking a certain eye for detail, nor does he seem to have much of an understanding how the travel industry works.

He's also hampered by the fact that he cannot remain impartial toward the little people around him.  His bile toward the citizenry in Las Vegas that weekend is telling.  Mr. Crotty finds himself unable to pen a decent critique of a place because he was embarrassed by his inability to read terms and conditions, and he didn't like the people that surround him when he was there.  I don't claim to be a "seasoned travel expert" but I do have, on many cases, the ability to at least keep my personal feelings toward the populace out of a review.

In Mr. Crotty's defense there are a LOT of people out there who don't like Las Vegas, who find it tacky and gauche and who don't get the attraction that so many people have to the city.  I get that, and I understand that it's not a city for all people.  But I also understand that you don't have to bet big money to have fun there, and that (unlike Mr. Crotty) MOST travelers don't want a spa day.  I also understand that, for those who do, the choice as to whether spa prices are 'exorbinant' or not is a personal decision, not one that I am going to make for them.

In essence, Mr. Crotty's article is everything that is wrong with travel (and much food) writing in today's media.  You have inexperienced writers with a very narrow world view criticizing anything and everything that doesn't shoe-horn into their limited reality without doing much research in the interim.  When confronted with fact, or a difference of opinion, they just scream louder.


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