I’ve been a fan of “Lonely Planet” from the time I started traveling outside Europe. I once promised myself not to go on holiday without a Lonely Planet of the region. Because those small lettered books have the potential of making a holiday worth the money. It really made a difference on my trip to Thailand and South-Africa. It gives you something to work with, and certainty when everything else is failing, people who have used a Lonely Planet travel guide sure know what I mean.
But still there is something changing for me and I’m not sure why. For my recent trip to Zanzibar I still bought a Lonely Planet of Tanzania, but I found it a bit scarce on information on places to stay, so this time I mainly used Tripadvisor in looking for places to stay. The problem with Tripadvisor is that you can’t get it in a handy paperback guide. So I checked out a few places that had more than 10 reviews, looked that they were overall positive, checked their rates and remember the place and name, wrote them on the back of my Lonely Planet.
So for some reason, I felt more secure and comfortable reading reviews from regular people than the Lonely Planet 3-4 lines reviews. And it seems the reviews from the writers of lonely planet aren’t as objective as they originally stated. Which is logical, it is impossible for a traditional publisher to gather such amount of information and more important, keep that information up to date. We’ve seen the brittanica vs. wikipedia story, so I really think Lonely Planet should think about a more democratic way of maintaining their travel guides.
Tripadvisor isn’t perfect either, too many advertisements and I find it impossible to understand why they never show the link to the homepage of the accommodation. The reviews are valuable but they should evolve more to a kind of wiki for each place to stay that is listed. People should be able to collaborate on a more generic description of the accommodation, and people who don’t want to spend the time writing reviews, should just be able to mark descriptions as accurate or inaccurate.
Still I will keep using Lonely Planet guides, it remains a very valuable source, but they should use their avid travelers to keep the content up to date, to add new places to stay, that direct you to the hot spots of the moment.