What’s missing in the information era

Travelling and moving, either as a tourist or for work, has become in the past fifteen, twenty years easier and more common, thanks to the rise of low cost air companies, Schengen agreements and the Internet. The Web in particular, if compared to the travel agencies and phone booking’s era, has greatly expanded the possibilities of choosing a hotel or an accommodation away from home, even for a few days. However, sometimes, among the countless information we apparently can count on, the most important to us are absent or even erroneous, with unpleasant consequences.


In this regard, Alessandro, journalist and theater critic, talks about his experience. «When, in the early Nineties, I used to travel to big cities like New York, Paris or London, once I’d found the accommodation I could afford the next question was “Where is it?”, regularly answered by the travel agent with a generic “downtown”. Too bad the “downtown” I was interested in was twenty stops and three subway changes from the hotel, turning my staying into a non-stop transfer. Those were different times, true, now every hotel and short-term rental agency has a website on which Google Maps shows you positions and distances, but even so problems are not solved.


A while ago I booked a hotel in Utrecht, The Netherlands, online. I opted for a structure outside the historic center because I was traveling with a rental car, and so I had the option of an easy parking. Then I was going to rent a bike for my on-site transfers. And here come the surprises: accordingly to the website the bike rental was within a 5 minutes walk from the hotel, but it was actually a couple of kilometers far (and of course it was raining that day as well), also the hotel was in a sort of junction between the urban and the extra-urban belt, forcing in fact the rider to complex and dangerous maneuvers to take the nearest cycle lane. In short, my only requirement about the trip to Utrecht was moving by bike – in the country with more cycle lanes in the world – but it has been disregarded due to incomplete or inaccurate data.


A similar event happened to me in Brussels. Again, I picked a mini-apartment (I was there on business and the stay was too long to spend it in a hotel) not in the center but still within a biking distance of three, four kilometers. Besides, the website on which I handled the booking said that the area I was going to stay in was well served by pubs and restaurants where, after a day at work, you could relax and hang out. Again, though, surprises were lurking. Nowhere on the Internet I found anything about the fact that the area of Brussels I was going to stay was actually a hill, also quite steep: very convenient to get down to work, virtually impossible, by bike, to climb it back, with slopes worth a pro. Long story short, coming back home at night was a nightmare.


Not much better the restaurants and pubs situation. There were surely lots of them, but being in an administrative area (the “European Quarter”) they were all closed in the evening. In this case, I should have probably checked better (time to always do everything perfectly is hard to find, though), but I couldn’t believe that no one on the Internet had reported that the European Quarter was on a very steep hill. Today, when we have to choose an accommodation away from home, we have access to much more data and information than in the past, but often we feel like this the information is too much and scattered, nearly impossible to sift all through according to our needs. And that’s a shame, because a vacation or a stay away from home are situations in which we invested money, expectations and energies, and not living them at the very best always leaves a bitter taste».


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