Making recommendations: the bases of cross-national/cultural travel recommendations

Discussion created by arkwright on Apr 13, 2013

One for all Insiders.


Part of the rationale for this site is to offer insights into the experience - national and global - of travel. At first sight, this might seem an uncomplicated endeavour. And in some ways it is: what could be easier than making financial or physical assessments - "It's the price/size of room/rewards etc, Stupid!!"


I often wonder though how much confidence we should place in some of the more subjective judgements one reads on Insiders. This is NOT to suggest that anyone deliberately submits incorrect information, but it is to ask about the conscious/subconscious assumptions that underpin many of the assessments/recommendations we read.


An example: Jerry Coin recently asked about the possibility of taking a "day trip" from London to the regional city in which I live - Manchester. To give information about trains, times and prices is not a problem. What is much more difficult is to decide whether Jerry would find it an enjoyable and/or worthwhile trip. And yet this is exactly the type of advice that many people come to Insiders for.


Taking Jerry's query a step further: are there any universal criteria we can apply when assessing what we read? My own view is "yes", but only one or two. For example, there is a small group - London, New York, Paris, and perhaps Tokyo, Sydney and Rio - that, few would deny, have a presence, a grandeur and an innate confidence which stamps them unmistakably as "world cities". Irrespective of whether you like them or not, you can be fairly confident that a visitor will find enough of interest to justify a visit.


The fascination of Insiders - well, for me, in any case:-) - lies in trying to imagine what might interest or assist other readers, beyond those eternal "matters of fact" - price, size and availability! In Jerry case, the fact that we've actually met and I know a little about him - that, for example, he comes from St Louis, is an expert numismatist, an inveterate traveller and likes an occasional glass of red wine - is useful. Manchester is a city that in the 18th century came from being a small market town to arguably the world's first "industrial city" in less than 50 years; that subsequently has enjoyed/endured biblical years of famine as well as plenty; that today is essentially a throbbing European regional centre, though perhaps lacking the heritage and cultural richness of a Milan or Munich; has a great passion for sport (though soccer not baseball) and music; and can provide large quantities of almost all forms of alcohol (though "quality" is a different matter!!).


So, on balance, Jerry, I'd say that, providing you don't think you're going to find the Eiffel Tower, Tower of London or Empire State Building, there's enough in and about Manchester to sustain an interesting day out. What I'd find much more difficult, though,, is to imagine whether that day would be better spent at, say, Bristol, Norwich or York, each of which is equally accessible and which has a very distinctive heritage. To be honest, I'd probably choose Bristol - but that's the beauty of travel: it's over to you Jerry Coin.