Gemütlichkeit Travel Letter
Information in the
Gemütlichkeit Travel Letter can help you to design your own
wonderful trip to Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The Gemütlichkeit Travel Letter
and its associated website
provides travel advice for people researching travel to Germany,
Austria, and Switzerland.
$49 a year gets you eleven
issues of the newsletter and access to their website with
archived information dating back to when they started service in
January, 1987. Reaching its sixteenth year of publication,
Gemütlichkeit boasts many 'foundation' subscribers - people who
have been subscribers continually since its first issue.
We have negotiated a
generous discount on
subscriptions for Travel Insider readers.
Your annual subscription
gets you eleven issues of their monthly (except for a combined
Each newsletter is eight
letter-sized pages in length, and supplemented with a four page
advertising and product insert. They are printed in black only,
and without any photos. Newsletters come pre-punched so they can
be stored in three-ring binders.
I liked the inclusion of
advertising inserts - they were helpful and promoted relevant
types of travel products.
The newsletters follow a
standard format, including an editorial narrative, a major
feature on somewhere in the region they cover, a Reader Forum
that allows readers to write in with supplemental comments, and
several mini guides for quick reference to key travel questions.
Another smaller second feature article appears in most issues,
which might be an article from their 'Hidden Treasure Series' or
'Dollarwise Traveler' notes, or some other topic.
Each major feature covers a
town or city or region from three perspectives - information on
the area and things to see and do, supplemented with hotel and
The companion website has a
generous amount of information open to the public and a section
that is restricted to current subscribers.
The website also sells
European car rentals and rail passes, with the promise of adding
discounted 'consolidator' type air fares as part of the
redevelopment. An associated company (Travel Essentials) sells
travel accessories and luggage, and offers subscribers a
valuable 10% discount on all purchases they make. A links page
is also present, with helpful links to appropriately relevant
The members only section is
very functional in terms of quick access to the information you
It would be very nice to see
the website expand to include some pictures. I find it very much
easier to evaluate hotels when I can see pictures of their
exterior and interior, and when I can see them located on a map.
The web is very much a visual medium, and so too is travel -
pictures would greatly add to the value of the website
Information is organized in
two main forms at present - a database of hotel reviews, and a
searchable archive of past issues of the newsletter dating back
to January 1993. It would be nice to see them add a directory of
restaurants, although perhaps due to the rapidly changing nature
of restaurants, they have wisely chosen not to include this!
The hotel reviews are
presented in brief summary form only, and detail, for each
hotel, its name, address, phone and fax numbers, plus also
website and email if known. Each hotel is then assessed a rating
for both quality and value (on a 1-5 scale) and is given a price
range (four price bands). The original hotel review date is
shown if you want to then go to the newsletter archive to view
the complete review. Finally, a limited number of hotels are
awarded an 'Editor's Choice' accolade. Over 800 hotels are
The back issues database
contains the text of all newsletters up to six or so months
prior to the current issue. This is presumably to encourage
people to subscribe to the newsletter for more than just a
single month; and if a recent subscriber needs to access data in
the most recent several issues, they can be purchased as back
issues. There is a special offer to new subscribers - a one year
subscription for $49 or a one year subscription plus the last
year's back issues for $76.
The Content - Quantity Issues
Each newsletter contains a
main destination feature, a secondary feature, and then a
miscellany of minor notes.
With 88 full letter sized
pages of new material being released each year, and an online
database of some thousands of additional pages of information,
coverage of its three countries - Austria, Germany and
Switzerland - should be very complete.
Surprisingly perhaps, it
does not provide an encyclopedic source of everything you ever
wanted to know about every hotel and every restaurant in every
town and city. For example, in Geneva, a city with 125 hotels
and 1100 eating places, Gemütlichkeit mentions only four hotels
in its database. Other cities have considerably more hotels
listed (for example, 28 in Vienna and 29 in Berlin), and
Gemütlichkeit Editor Bob Bestor doesn't consider Geneva a high
priority destination for most tourists so has sensibly focused
more carefully on the prime leisure/vacation destinations.
This issue of completeness
is one to which there is never a satisfactory answer. No
guidebook lists all hotels in a city, and it also seems that the
more hotels a guidebook lists, the more superficial is their
review of each hotel!
Perhaps the issue is one of
perspective - rather than working back from a list of hotels
gained, eg, on the internet, and then looking to the newsletter
for reviews of all hotels on the huge list, it is better instead
to work forward from the newsletter and to base hotel choices on
the hotels they feature and the recommendations they offer. In
other words, maybe the key issue is not quantity, but rather
It is possible to plan a
complete trip to these three countries without needing to
supplement the information that Gemütlichkeit offers. But if you
are limiting your use of Gemütlichkeit to a support resource to
double check information obtained elsewhere, you will not find
it so helpful.
I had used the lack of
comment on the 'Sound of Music' tour in Salzburg as a reference
point for my review of the Passport
Newsletter. I felt certain that it would be included in
Gemütlichkeit, but again it was omitted. However, the February
1999 newsletter has lots of Sound of Music related information
about Salzburg, which makes me feel better!
The Content - Quality Issues
Because the publication is
tightly focused on three countries, it is able to provide more
regular and indepth coverage than would be the case with broader
The German word
gemütlichkeit expresses the concept of a friendly warm welcome
and hospitable environment. These concepts are central to the
theme of the newsletter, which focuses more on the personal
touches and seems to clearly prefer owner operated smaller
establishments over larger generic brand properties.
Hotel reviews are thorough
and include a 20 point rating system. It is plain that the
writers have not just briefly visited the hotels, but have
actually stayed in them and thoroughly experienced all the
positive and negative aspects of the hotel.
The writers are also not at
all hesitant at revealing shortcomings of hotels. I have always
disliked the 'glossy coffee table' type travel publications that
pretend that everything to do with travel is perfect and
wonderful - the reality is of course very different, and I have
a lot more respect for a publication that acknowledges the truth
- not everything to do with travel is always trouble-free.
After having sold
international travel myself for more than a decade, it is
obvious to me that the style of advice that Gemütlichkeit offers
is exactly what most people traveling on independent tours
(rather than group tours) want and need.
Other Related Services
An interesting related
service is that you can telephone and speak to one of the
writers and get personalized travel advice. This is offered at a
rate of $50/hr with a two hour minimum, and is discounted
(potentially even free) if you buy some of the travel products
they directly sell (mainly rail passes and rental cars).
I pay much more than this to
get my car serviced. $50/hr is a bargain for any type of
service, and most people would be unlikely to need more than a
couple of hours of phone consultation to tweak and fine tune
their travel itinerary.
I recently made a visit to
Switzerland. I had only allowed myself a very few days there,
and after doing considerable research, felt at a loss as to what
to see and where to go, and ended up choosing to spend time in
Bern (the nation's capital) and Geneva. I wish I'd been aware of
Gemütlichkeit and used its services!
Neither city appears on
their list of 'The Top Ten Destinations in Switzerland' and
while of course I haven't (yet) seen the locations they do
recommend, it is already plain to me that their judgment is much
better than mine was (in case you are wondering, they list
Lauterbrunnen Valley, Lac Leman and Zurich as the top three
If you don't have access to
a travel agent with an in-depth knowledge of these countries,
this is a wonderful extra service.
Summary - Should You Subscribe?
If you have no plans to
travel to the three countries they primarily cover, then
probably you'll get little value from your subscription!
But if you expect to travel
to these countries, and want to do something other than join a
packaged coach tour, then you're almost certainly going to find
their information, advice and recommendations of great
To be sure, not every hotel
or restaurant or village is covered, but this is true of all
guides. What you do get are solid and sensible recommendations
and helpful suggestions for how to build either a 'beginners'
highlights type tour or an 'advanced' in depth tour of a
If you're interested in this
newsletter, why not sign up for it - they offer a satisfaction
guarantee. If you cancel after the first one or two issues, you
get a full refund. If you cancel subsequently, you get a refund
of the unused balance of your subscription.
If you'd like to try this
newsletter, Bob is offering
a special discounted
rate for Travel Insider readers.
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20 Dec 2002, last update
28 Nov 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.