This entailed a lot of grunt work: checking websites, making phone calls, finding out if places were still open or had closed permanently. It wasn't glamorous, but somebody's got to do it if the guide is going to be up to date.
The assignment turned out to be quite a learning experience. While I have been visiting the Turks and Caicos for 23 years now, I've never spent much time on Providenciales, or Provo, the island where most people go for vacations. Tom and I get over to North Caicos as quickly as we can, and have viewed Provo as only a place to get luxury groceries or hardware items that can't be found on North. The Fodor's assignment had me exploring that island a bit more.
In addition, the work gave me some insight as to what most travelers are looking for when they book a trip to the TCI ... and how different their concerns are from mine.
Finding a place to stay is the number one reason people look at the guide books, and the first place where people will be picky. It was no surprise to learn that people want to be right on the beach; after all, those clear turquoise waters are the main draw of the island chain. What did surprise me was how many resorts and condo groups tout their swimming pools. Apparently, people want to be right on the ocean, but they're not so interested in swimming in it. Go figure.
The number of places offering fine dining was also an eye-opener. I can understand vacationers wanting to have a nice upscale meal out once or twice ... but all the time? You can get the local specialties-conch and lobster-at these spots, but they are generally gussied up with preparations from other cultures so that they are nearly unrecognizable by the locals.
Travelers also seem to need activities and things to do. It's not enough to explore on your own or enjoy the scenery. Fodor's lists it all: shopping, nightlife, sports, wifi and more.
While working with all this material, I realized what an atypical traveler I am. To me, saying "there's nothing to do here" is an endorsement of North Caicos, not a discouragement. I prefer natural beaches to raked and prettified ones, and listening to some old guys at the local bar arguing about politics is all the entertainment I need.
I had always known somehow that I am not cut out for travel writing ... and this experience proves it. I just wouldn't understand my audience, nor they me. I am most amazed that it took me so long to learn this truth.