I try to keep this blog unbiased and commercially free. Not even once have I tried to sell you viagra or crypto. There are no adverts, no sponsored posts, only one review was at the invitation of a hotel and no guest writers, much as I’d love to pay someone else to do this. Let’s be honest though, it’s not exactly Conde Nast over here and a £10 WHSmith voucher ain’t apparently an acceptable form of payment.
So how is it funded? Well, let me tell you, Mr. Revenue Officer.
How it began
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Sorry, too far back.
This all began as a hobby. It annoyed me to find legitimately unbiased reviews, written by people that understood luxury and didn’t default to some Top 10 lists filled with paid advertisements. Even now I believe that to be a rarity. I was travelling to some of the world’s best resorts, but still was struggling to shut off entirely and step away from a laptop, so I took the opportunity to start learning photography and then throwing some reviews together.
After a few years of good feedback on Flyertalk, I created this blog. Surprisingly this good feedback inspired me to keep going. I grew up thinking Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket was the way to win over hearts and minds, but apparently us snowflakes all like this weird thing called praise.
Within a short period of time I had one of the only English speaking blogs with first-hand, paying customer reviews of resorts such as North Island and Laucala, which, were once considered the pinnacle of exclusive travelling, but now they’ll just let in anyone who’s got a spare $50,000. Phhhft, standards.
Since then I’ve had my reviews referenced by major publications, with writers from The Telegraph, The Times and Forbes referencing my work and I will forever quote Jay Rayner saying he “bowed down” to me. You can’t take it back, Jay.
Every article prior to 2017 will have been entirely self-funded, yet since then I founded a luxury travel agency with Lucie, my wife, mother of my children, best person in the world and editor of this blog.
So now there’s two ways it’s funded
- Industry rates
Self-funded means booking it through our travel agency, so worst case I’m paying net prices, which is somewhere between 10-20% discount. Best case, it’s an industry rate.
Industry rates can vary all the way from complimentary transfers all the way up to a free stay. Normally it’s somewhere in between. The discount will depend on the amount of business previously sent, the time of year or just how hideous my face is. The discounts during off-peak can be particularly appealing, but I’m not prepared to go sit somewhere for a week whilst it rains and instead I’ll pay standard rates to go during peak. Or at least my version of peak, that is, I don’t want to be anywhere in Europe during July or August as it’s crowded, hot and so expensive that you’d need to be into crypto to afford to stay there.
Of the 22 hotels we plan to visit this year, only 2 are on industry rates.
Holidays vs business
I am regularly trying to find the right blend between wanting to visit as many properties as possible vs the time of year I’m prepared to visit to get the real experience vs the cost of doing so vs just wanting to go somewhere and relax. I could not bring myself to go back to Cheval Blanc Randheli for 7 nights without at least trying another property in the Maldives, so we booked Patina as well.
My upcoming trip to southern Africa in June is almost entirely based on my desire to review properties that are rarely if ever, reviewed. I would be perfectly happy in Tswalu and revisiting some Singita’s, but I want to turn this blog into the definitive resource for ultra-luxury properties and therefore instead I’m going to exclusive use 5 bedroom properties by myself, during peak. I don’t know if the travel industry hands out medals, but I’m ready to collect mine anytime.
We have some excellent connections from a combination of my spending, Lucie’s connections from her past life working at Maybourne Group, owning a travel agency, this blog and sometimes all of the above. Since our daughter was born we started to care more about booking suites, as there’s little fun playing a game of A Quiet Place whilst she sleeps and we get to make no noise or the punishment is our death, but I’m still not in the position where I either justify or get enough value from booking signature suites. That’s not to say I don’t love when we’re upgraded, but not enough that I’m prepared to pay for them.
Best upgrade? The Connaught took me from a £500/n base room category to their £15k/n top suite, The Apartment, for my 100th stay.
Have I been known to beg my way to an upgrade? No comment.
What about flights?
We fly business or first class and receive no discounts. I will always try to use air miles, but it’s rarely possible so just have to suck it up and just pay. I cannot accurately explain my illogical hatred of paying for flights, but let me give you some maths to help you understand a little: given the choice of spending £5k to fly home on a given date, or £1k at a later date, but it requires an additional £9k in hotel fees, I will take the latter.
I don’t write flight reviews as I hate every minute of it.
With rare exception, I am a paying customer of all the properties reviewed on this blog. Not hotel points, nor bartering using chickens, not even trading on OnlyFans, I’m talking using cash. Whilst always trying to remain unbiased, whether consciously or subconsciously, it has an impact on reviewing a property where it’s a freebie. Owning the travel agency has another impact on neutrality because it means whilst we’re still funding the trips, writing reviews can lead to business. Yet if I’m not honest, those that book would never book again, so I think it balances it all out. I won’t lie, this blog has helped get Dorsia a lot of amazing clients, yet I still care that my reviews are honest, otherwise, this has achieved nothing.
Love your blog, Tom. Miss you on FlyerTalk with your candid perceptions of all places luxury but so glad I have followed you here. It is fascinating to me how difficult it is to find trustworthy discussions from folks who understand high end. I’m certainly a couple levels below you in my stays but love knowing about the possibilities. Keep writing.
I also love your reviews. About 10 years ago my wife and I decided that we needed to travel more for leisure and add luxury. With 70+ hours per week of work and much of it flying the last thing we wanted was to get on an airplane and stay in another Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott. Travel was work in those days…. However, we decided that if we could travel and make the hotel part of the destination that would be fun.
Like you said it was hard to find legit reviews of boutique hotels or even any reviews at all. In the early days we had some home run’s like the Schloss Monchstein in Salzburg, Park Hotel Vitznau and Villa Feltrinelli on Lake Garda. However, some misses also (I’m looking at you Villa Honegg and Grand Hotel Zee am See).
All in all its been fun and over the years we’ve curated a list of hotels that we return to every year or two. Your blog has helped us find new hotels as well as validate the ones we already knew about.
Keep up the good work and looking forward to 2022’s reviews.
Love all of your insights, good bad etc. I did notice that pic of your wife above was taken at villa 20. Not one of your fiber reviews from my memory. We stayed at villa 20 too but loved it! I guess it was our first time there though, not our 8th to draw any comparisons.