The future of travel guides

People talk about how the availability of free information on the Internet has sounded the death knell for publishers of printed travel guides.

Technology allows travelers to create a bespoke guide from reviews and information gathered from online media. Postings on crowd-sourced sites such as TripAdvisor offer an everyman alternative to traditional guides, which used to depend on regional experts and writers. So publishers too are moving online, setting up forums, encouraging you to send in photos and reviews, give comments and feedback.

This is surely good news for the traveler. For us, the point of a travel guide is to provide accurate, current information. We don't want to read a review of a hotel only to find it was written 4 years ago. Nor do we want to reach our destination with high expectations of visiting the local Michelin starred restaurant, only to find that it closed last year. The key selling point of online information is the ability to find current, accurate and reliable information.

So we'd expect the traditional guide publishers to still offer valuable traveling advice, because surely they have procedures in place to check their information? Unfortunately our experience tells us otherwise. One well known online guide is still listing Ducasse's Bar et Boeuf restaurant for Monaco, even tho' it closed last year, replaced by Ducasse's Trattoria. OK, it's still Ducasse, but there's a big difference between the French equivalent of surf and turf, and the Italian staples of pasta and risotto, even if they are prepared by a master chef. Our sister site maBoum recently contacted the guide to update them. After a couple of weeks, we'd forgotten we even sent the message when a reply popped into our email inbox:

I’ve been trying to verify that Bar & Boeuf is now closed, but can’t seem to find any information on the web that confirms this. It’s not that we don’t trust you, but rather that it’s our policy to double-check information as a matter of course before changing it on our website.

If you know of a website or link to an article online that confirms what you've told us in your email, we’d be grateful if you could forward it to me. We will then be happy to make the necessary changes to our website.

We can't believe that this global company could not find anything to support news of this restaurant closure. A quick Google search shows several sources stating the change. We acknowledge that publishers of travel guides can't possibly have an employee in every single tourist destination of the world to keep track of changes. We also understand that this large corporation didn't know us from Adam and so would need to check we were telling the truth. But surely once they've been alerted, they will have someone on board, a curator if you like, who can do a quick online search, without even having to contact the local tourist board or restaurant to check?

Clearly not. So what does that augur for the survival of the travel guide book? Future success lies not only in technology, but also curation. Information providers must be able to verify facts and provide the most up to date information possible, and the business that can harness technology to do this will be the winner.