It is with both regret and relief that I have decided, after months of deliberation, to block all future posts and comments, positive or negative, relating to general tour operators and guides on my update websites to Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia.
To place this decision in some perspective, when I started up this website in 2008, I envisaged that its primary role would be to alert Bradt readers to important or interesting travel-related developments in Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia between printed editions of the books, as well as being a forum for meaty trip reports from recently returned travellers.
Recently, however, traffic on Uganda, Ethiopia and to a lesser extent Rwanda has become dominated by recommendations for local guides and tour operators. Furthermore, it seems to me like an increasingly significant proportion of these ‘reader recommendations’ are actually being written by the operator or guide in question, or at least by somebody affiliated with them. Which pretty much negates the whole point of posting ‘reader recommendations’ in the first place. Especially as many casual visitors might mistake a reader recommendation for an endorsement by myself or Bradt.
For my part, it’s often difficult, and time consuming, to verify the source of these positive recommendations. Many obviously come from genuine travellers, and I post them. Others are clearly bogus, and I delete them. In some cases, it is difficult to decide, and usually these posts get the benefit of the doubt.
Negative feedback is problematic to deal with for different reasons. The first is that I often have no way of evaluating how fair the criticisms are. The second is that, once posted, these one-off criticisms stay posted forever, which seem prejudicial to any company that does usually provide a perfectly acceptable service. The third is that negative reviews often draw heated reactions from the operator concerned, or clients who had a good experience with them, and I am really in no position to referee these disputes.
Unfortunately, dealing with this stuff has started to dominate the time I spend updating this website and it is also becoming a distraction from my primary job i.e. writing guidebooks. And it strikes me that there are already several more suitable and more impersonal forums (notably thorntree & tripadvisor) where anybody can post unverified and largely unverifiable feedback about general operators.
So… I have decided to revert to what this website was initially meant to be: a place where readers can post travel updates and trip reports focused on the country and its tourist facilities, not on tour operators and guides.
Please note that I will not delete past operator- and guide-related posts, that would be too time consuming, but I will go through them all at some point and remove any that strike me as really iffy. In the meantime, please take these recommendations for what they are, which is, at best, just one client’s experience. And even a lousy operator is likely to get it right some of the time.
Secondly, while I will no longer allow through any new posts or comments that deal solely with guides or tour operators, I will allow myself some discretion when it comes to passing references to local guides in more general trip reports or feedback.
I will also gladly allow through objective information by or about anybody providing a unique or unusual service on the ground – if, for instance, somebody starts up horseback tours or guided hikes in a specific area, I’d see that as travel information rather than operator/guide feedback.
Finally, I will hold on to all positive or negative feedback about operators and guides emailed to me or posted here for evaluation when I come to work on a new edition. So if you want to rave or rant, feel free to do so – the only difference is that I will no longer post these things directly here!
Thanks for your time!