And so we enter our 41st year! The inaugural issue of the Hideaway Report newsletter was mailed in June 1979, and, amazingly, 16 of the hotels that appeared in the first annual Index are properties that we still recommend.
The Hideaway Report began as the brainchild of a New York advertising executive who had grown weary of the corporate world and his daily commute. He decided to take a year off to go traveling with his wife. Somewhat to his surprise, he discovered that there were few sources of information about upscale hotels, and those that there were available often seemed to be compromised by advertising. So he decided to write up his travel experiences in a newsletter under the pseudonym “Andrew Harper.” The first issue went out to a handful of subscribers in 11 states, but just 12 months later, in “An Open Letter to Our Readers,” he celebrated “converts in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries” and predicted with confidence “two candles on the cake next spring.” Clearly, the Hideaway Report had struck a chord.
Forty years ago, international travel was in its infancy. The Boeing 747 had entered service with Pan Am in 1970, safely carrying 400-plus passengers more than 5,000 miles. But a recession and then the 1973 oil crisis meant that the new potential for long-haul travel was slow to be realized. By the end of the decade, going on vacation to Thailand or South Africa still seemed improbably exotic. In its first year, the Hideaway Report covered hotels in 21 U.S. states, plus properties in Mexico and the Caribbean, as well as in familiar European countries such as France, Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland and Spain. Far-flung destinations were represented only by Argentina and Nepal. Almost unnoticed, however, attitudes and ambitions were beginning to change, and the great global travel boom of the 1980s and ’90s was just about to take off.
Andrew Harper’s stated intention was “to create a genuinely useful Baedeker for vacationing connoisseurs.” He promised his growing number of readers that he had no time whatsoever for “steel skyscrapers and copycat crash pads.” Rather, he insisted, “small rates big with us.” Above all, he promised to travel incognito, pay all of his own expenses and go in search of hideaways that provided distinctive character, exceptional comfort, personal service and a tranquil atmosphere.
It was a formula that proved instantly and enduringly successful. Four decades on, our values remain exactly the same. Nowadays, a small team of anonymous editors wanders the globe, with identical objectives to their illustrious forebear. Of course, there have been significant changes over such an extended period. Today, we still publish a newsletter and travel guides, but most of our coverage appears in digital form, and photography, video and podcasts are integral to our reporting. Before long, streaming videos or even television may become parts of our editorial package.
Undoubtedly, the future will bring challenges. The exponential growth of a huge and prosperous middle class in China has changed the face of international travel forever. Our editors will have to reckon with overtourism in classic destinations like Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona, as well as at World Heritage sites such as Angkor Wat and in Africa’s best-known wildlife areas like the Serengeti. Global warming and the need to offset the damaging carbon emissions caused by high-flying jet aircraft are already matters of great concern. And if our grandchildren are going to experience the thrill of seeing a pride of lion in the wild, or the exquisite coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef, then remedies will have to be found. However, at its most benevolent and socially responsible, tourism can be part of the solution, pumping money into conservation and development projects, promoting small-scale organic agriculture and providing employment and cross-cultural understanding.
What is certain is that people in the future will still crave the thrill and romance of travel. They will want to be pampered, to enjoy sincere hospitality, to eat delicious food, to drink fine wine and to find serenity away from the stress of the modern world. And we are confident that 40 years hence we will still be providing the kind of inspiration and expert advice that has been our mission and our privilege over the past four unforgettable decades.