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 in 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 Ethiopia between printed editions of the book, as well as being a forum for meaty trip reports from recently returned travellers.
Recently, however, traffic 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 clients 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 allow gladly through objective information 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!
How would users of this website feel if I were to ban all posts, positive or negative, relating to generic tour operators and guides?
And just revert to what this website was initially meant to be: a place where readers can post travel updates and trip reports focussed on the country and facilities there, not on tour operators and guides.
It is becoming a real drain on my time and energy to referee the guide and operator feedback, and it strikes me that there are already several other more suitable forums (notably thorntree & tripadvisor) where anybody can post unverified and largely unverifiable feedback of this sort!
If people are finding the recommendations useful, fine, I am happy to carry on with them. But if most people read them with a pinch of salt (and I know I am starting to more and more), then maybe everybody is wasting their time & it’d be better just to veto them?
When I first started this website five years ago, I envisaged that its primary role would be to alerting travellers to important or interesting developments in Ethiopia between printed editions of the book, as well as being a forum for trip reports that might present different viewpoints to my own.
Recently, however, I find that website traffic has become dominated by recommendations for local guides and tour operators. Frankly, I am not sure to what extent this is being driven by a real need among travellers for recommendations of this sort, and to what extent it is being driven by guides and operators asking satisfied clients to post a recommendation. Either way, I am happy to roll with it within reason, even if it means about half the posts on the website are now recommendations for a specific guide or operator made by one client.
But I would ask anybody using this website to bear a couple of things in mind when they evaluate these guide recommendations:
1. I have no way of verifying the source of most recommendations. Many obviously come from genuine travellers, and I post them. Others are clearly bogus, and I delete them. But in some some cases, it is difficult to decide, and I feel I have no choice to give them the benefit of the doubt. What I will say is that when it comes to questionable posts, the email address supplied draws a blank on a facebook search with a regularity that is slightly surprising.
2. Even if a recommendation is genuine, it is based on just one clients experience. And even a lousy operator is likely to get it right some of the time. And if the operator does ask a client to post something here, it will most likely be a client that seems to be happy with their experience. Given the number of guide & operator recommendations I’ve been getting of late, it is quite surprising that I don’t ever seem to get any negative feedback!
Secondly, if you read this and you are planning to post a recommendation, it would help me greatly if you were to include some sort of detail I can use to verify it comes from a genuine traveller not a made-up email address – a link to your facebook page, or blog, or linkedin profile, or twitter account , or anything else you can think of. Of course, I will delete this information before I post your recommendation, but it will really help me sort the genuine recommendations from the bogus stuff. From now on, I will also make a note in any post where I have been able to verify the identity of the sender.
Caroline Vardon writes:
I have visited Ethiopia with my husband, my son and his girlfriend for the total duration of 25 days, the whole trip was arranged by Yalew Fafete.
We found Ethiopia such a beautiful country with vast things to see. The nature is amazing, the culture is so unique, the people are very friendly… Above all the trip became more interesting and unimaginably beautiful to had it with Yalew. He speaks very good english to give us the detailed info for all the necessary things we wanted to know before left for the trip. Quick to replay all the e-mails, gave a great itinerary which has fitted our interest.
The trip was in the northern part of the country comprises Bahir Dar, Gondar, the Siemien mountains, Axum, Tigray churches and Lalibela. And in the southern Omo valley; many different tribes with their own culture and language, beautiful lakes to see the aquatic lives and stunning scenery.
He made our trip much easier in buying our flight tickets, booking the hotel rooms; assigning excellent drivers, local guides, the cook in the Simiens served us lots of yummy food. We had a wonderful service for every single coin paid for the trip.
Having a trip with Yalew is really a phenomenal, so I recommend you to have your trip with him in this beautiful country.
His email address: email@example.com
his website: http://www.guide-ethiopia.com