I spent the day in a rainy, off-season seaside town in North Wales. It was bliss.
No, really. It is the third time I’ve covered this destination for a certain publisher and being the returning writer means I can draw on prior experience to really get under the skin of the place.
I’m enjoying the benefit of bypassing the mediocre attractions and so-so places to eat I tested last time, and cutting to the quick of the real quality.
I can see how some local businesses in tourism have grown and how others I was unsure about last time have floundered. I am revisiting favourite coffee shops and sneaking in a cheeky half at favourite local bars along the way.
I’ve even recognised some familiar faces I met on previous bouts of research. One B&B owner almost embraced today on his doorstep like a long-lost prodigal son.
Pounding the streets
But don’t get me wrong. I’m still earning my money by getting out there, walking the pavements and personally checking everything first hand.
Just today I walked about one mile out of Conway to have a look at a new B&B someone had recommended to me. There was a dearth of quality places to stay and I needed some decent new places to increase my coverage.
It was worth the walk. Friendly, homely and perfect for the new edition. The owner even prepares her own hand-drawn walking maps to highlight hidden-gem local attractions to her guests.
You can have a sneak preview by following this link.
Walking back into town for lunch, I was pondering some recent posts by fellow freelancers, notably a post on WorldofJames about how holidaymakers don’t trust guidebooks, and a post from Travelblather about how PRs don’t take guidebook writers seriously.
I know I’m going out of my way to research the most reliable and up-to-date information for my next edition. And I’m sure many of my colleagues from the British Guild of Travel Writers do the same.
So why are guidebooks increasingly under attack? To me, a well-researched guide – whether print or online – is far better than some propaganda-fuelled bitching session on one of the customer reviews websites.
And it makes for far better editorial coverage, especially if you can spin-off story ideas from your research.
No easy ride
I spent today trying to find beauty in North Wales despite low-season early closing and a light-to-medium drizzle.
I think I succeeded. But will my guidebook shift units?
Maybe I should be using my destination knowledge to develop an iPhone app, or marketing a SEA-friendly website about hidden gems of North Wales on a wet Wednesday in March?
Over to you.