Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Guidebook Fees Discomfort Inns That Pay

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Guidebook Fees Discomfort Inns That Pay

Article excerpt

JACKSON HOUSE in Woodstock, Vt., is the type of inn that authors of bed-and-breakfast guidebooks rhapsodize about.

In her book "Bed and Breakfast in New England," Bernice Chesler raves about the museum-quality antiques, the Oriental rugs and the Baccarat crystal.

Sandra A. Soule's "America's Wonderful Little Hotels & Inns" calls the 1890 inn one of the most luxurious in the Woodstock area and quotes a guest who calls the breakfasts delectable.

But co-owner Jack D. Foster doesn't expect to continue to earn praise from these well-known authors. He says he won't pay the $125 fees that Chesler and Soule are charging inns to be listed in their books, and he fully expects to see Jackson House dropped.

The trend of guidebook authors to collect money from the innkeepers they write about is partly a reflection of the dismal economic status of most travel writers. But it also raises questions about the objectivity of books that hundreds of thousands of travelers rely on each year.

Chesler, one of the leading guidebook authors in the country, has been charging inns a $125 "processing fee" for many years. Soule used to side with Foster, dismissing inn guidebooks that charged fees as "paid advertisements." But she changed her mind in December, informing inn keepers listed in her book that they would be assessed a $125 "editorial fee."

Both authors say they are charging the fees because they cannot make ends meet without them. Their books retail for less than $17 apiece.

Soule, who lives in Riverside, Conn., said she took in $43,000 from her guidebooks in 1994 but spent $53,000 to compile them. She lost money despite the fact that she often accepts free or discounted lodging at inns she inspects. She said her 1995 ledger will probably look much the same.

Without the $37,000 she expects to collect this year in editorial fees, Soule said, she would have to stop writing her books. "Travel writers make an absolute pittance," she said.

Chesler, an author and a leading ambassador of America's bed-and-break fasts, said readers don't really care whether an author charges the inns a fee as long as the research standards remain high. …

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