|This page in a nutshell: Travel writing should describe travel destinations fairly, even if that means that a description isn't flattering; doing so allows travellers to make informed decisions based on honest information. Travel guides should not be written from a neutral point of view, but should be written for travellers from a traveller's point of view. Lively writing is encouraged so long as it describes the destination in a clear and correct manner.|
Wikivoyage makes every attempt to be fair in articles.
Being "fair" does not necessarily mean being "nice" or being "neutral". We have a mission to make (among other things) a reliable and complete travel guide, and a travel guide that doesn't give qualitative information about the things it describes isn't reliable or complete.
We need to call a spade a spade; if a restaurant is crowded, loud, and overpriced, we need to say so. If a hotel has bugs, smells like urine, or is dangerously badly built, we need to say so. If a tourism site is ugly, annoying, or not worth the effort, we need to say so.
If another Wikivoyager disagrees, the description should be edited until both sides agree that the description is fair. If a restaurant's pizzas are tasty and served fast one day, and half-raw despite a one-hour wait the next, then a fair description might say that "service can be slow and quality suffers during rush hour".
However, being "fair" doesn't mean using bland, vapid or timid prose. Wikivoyagers should feel free – nay, obligated – to use concrete, lively descriptions that paint a clear, concise picture of the subject in question. "Greek restaurant just off the plaza" doesn't tell anyone anything. "Dingy but passable Greek restaurant with surly waitstaff, rich and generous portions of moussaka, tinny stereo system" gives a lot more info. You don't have to tone down your writing in Wikivoyage just to remain fair.
The idea of "being fair" is this: we don't have any hidden agenda on Wikivoyage. We are not advocating any religion, political philosophy, environmental practice, gender theory, international language, home cooking device, tour company, or any other idea, business, or cause. We aren't trying to put any hotel out of business or punish any restaurant because they wouldn't honour our expired Diners' Club card. We are trying to put personal feelings about destinations behind us, while sharing our knowledge and impressions with other Wikivoyagers.
Our agenda on Wikivoyage is to achieve our goal: to make a really, really, really good travel guide that's useful and readable for travellers worldwide. We want to share our knowledge, and have it used. We put the needs of the traveller first. With this goal in mind, it's clear that leaving extraneous non-travel ideologies behind is in our best interest. We want to make a travel guide, not a religious tract that scares readers away before they get through the first sentence.
Neutral point of view
Contributors who are used to Wikipedia should remember that our rule to be fair is not the same as neutral point of view. In particular, we encourage lively, descriptive writing. Wikivoyage articles should not sound like encyclopedia entries.
Both Wikipedia and Wikivoyage will sometimes need to describe things that are strongly negative or positive. On both projects, this needs to be handled carefully to avoid straying into extremes; in a worst-case scenario, improperly lauding a place or event can stray into advertising, whereas unjustifiably slamming it can cause real and undue harm to the subject. However, Wikivoyage is a more personal, lively platform than Wikipedia. Our listings aren't just summaries of facts from other sources, but the personal impressions of Wikivoyage's collective userbase. We also tend to avoid reviews that are entirely negative, unless there's a good reason to keep them, such as in a guide to a small town without many other options; this means that where Wikipedia may need to consider how to present negative facts in context, we have the option of just excluding them if the context doesn't require their inclusion.
Local or business owner bias
If you are a business owner or a local advocate, make doubly sure to avoid the temptation to whitewash or sanitize an article or listing and to present a city or a business in the best possible light. There is nothing wrong with wanting to show off the highlights of a city. However, if there is a conflict between the perspective of travellers and the perspective of a business owner or local advocate, the traveller comes first.
Alas, when politics get involved, it's difficult to stay "fair" to both sides at once. The best way out is to stick to the bare minimum of facts necessary, presented as neutrally as possible, while keeping a firm focus on the traveller's interests.
For example, in the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, we should mention that there is a dispute and give brief (a sentence or two) historical background. Beyond that, our text should concentrate on practical advice directly relevant to travel:
- De facto control on the ground today. Which areas can you visit with an Indian visa? Which require a Pakistani visa? Whoever actually controls a territory, we simply acknowledge the fact that they do control it, regardless of whether we might think they should.
- Possible dangers to travellers. Are areas along the border off-limits or risky due to military activity? Are there dangers in other areas: volatile demonstrations, thuggish law enforcement, or terrorism?
Of course, every conflict has many other aspects, but in general these are not relevant to travel so they should not be covered here:
- Detailed history. Beyond the basics (for Kashmir, the dispute goes back to 1947 and the two nations have fought wars over it), this is out-of-scope for a travel guide.
- Legalities. For almost any conflict, there are treaties or UN resolutions that are relevant.
- Politics. Other nations may support one side or the other, and within the disputing countries different political parties may have quite different positions on the conflict.
- Blame. In the Kashmir conflict, each side blames the other, both blame the British, and there are complications beyond that.
Nearly all articles should include a link to Wikipedia; that provides a starting point for a reader who wants to know more about any of these topics. On Wikivoyage, bring them up only if they are truly relevant to the traveller. For example, if a party that is more militant about the dispute comes to power in one country, or if there is more than the usual saber-rattling from either side, that changes the risks for travel and should be mentioned.
Folklore and legends
Many places are known through folklore or unreliable rumours. When a statement is relevant to the fame of a place, but closer to legend than truth, make that clear.
- Lucerne is a beautiful small city in the heartland of Switzerland, across the lake from Altdorf, where legend has it William Tell shot an apple off of his son's head.
- The Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (Al-Maghtas) just west of the Israeli border is the place where Jesus is said to have been baptized.