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Does this mark a wrong turn for Rough Guide?
on 1 June 2011
Having used Rough Guides extensively in many countries, the seventh edition of the 'The Rough Guide to New Zealand' (2010) is something of a disappointment. Yes, of course the quality does vary from one country guide to another, even though the publisher does endeavour to maintain consistency, but this is more worrying. Several years ago I purchased the excellent 3rd edition of this same guide (2002) but then decided to defer my trip until I had more time to do the country justice. Recently, then, I thought that it would be a good idea to travel with the latest edition.
Since I had earlier annotated my now out-of-date 3rd edition, I decided to transcribe my notes into the pristine new copy which arrived with Amazon's customary speed and efficiency. My suspicions were, therefore, raised when I soon noticed that the 7th edition is rather shorter (837 pages compared to 1038). The type font is, however, smaller in the 7th edition and I assumed that this accounted for the thinner volume.
Wrong. Gone is some of the really helpful descriptive stuff concerning walks and other activities. Meanwhile critical assessments that I have always considered set Rough Guide well ahead of their rivals (I have never really been a fan of Lonely Planet) have now been muted. Taking just one example, all reference to the poor quality and high price of accommodation and eateries in Mount Cook village has been removed in the 7th edition.
Equally, the description of some shops, galleries and craft establishments' seemingly un-missable attractions rekindled memories of old fashioned package holiday companys' adverts for their often iffy value excursions. Although that may, in part, simply be a balance issue caused by the removal of so much of the good stuff, the overall impression is one of a less useful and, worse, less objective guide.
Rough Guides have often been my starting point for travel planning but this has been a troubling experience. Although I consider that this marks a retrograde step, perhaps it is the result of a deliberate decision on the part of the publisher to make the product more appealing to a wider audience. Hopefully that is not the case and other country guides will be spared the same fate. If not, I for one will be looking more carefully at some of the competition.