Specifically, questions of the type, "what's a good hotel in xx", "what's a good tour company in xx", "what's a good cruise in xxx". Looking at the definition phase on area 51 it seems pretty split as to if recommendation questions are on-topic.

Here are some current questions that (I think) fit the category I'm referring to:

I don't mean any criticism of the authors in posting these links.

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Despite everyone here upvoting the answers saying such questions are off-topic we're still accepting them and answering them. I warned the asker of this question but should I have just left it or should I have downvoted it or closed it? travel.stackexchange.com/questions/1060/… –  hippietrail Jul 18 '11 at 8:04
    
I've gone ahead and created a recommendation and added it to four seemingly uncontroversial such questions. –  hippietrail Jul 18 '11 at 8:25
    
Oh well somebody quietly decided they didn't like it and didn't have the energy to leave any comments about their decision to remove it in the relevant meta thread... –  hippietrail Aug 16 '11 at 9:12
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3 Answers

In my opinion these types of questions are off-topic because:

  • it runs the risk of this site becoming another Trip Advisor
  • what is "best" or "recommended" is highly subjective. For some people best is cheapest, for others it refers to quality or convenience.

Although I think there are different types of recommendation and some are more appropriate than others. I think asking for advice on cruises or hotels is more off-topic than asking for advice on tour agencies. In general it's harder to find recommendations for good tour agencies online than it is to find information on cruises or hotels.

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Indeed, recommendations in general are off-topic. This page lists a couple blog posts that explain exactly why these questions aren't a good fit for the network. –  Rebecca Chernoff Jun 21 '11 at 23:26
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Agreed. Don't ask generic "which X is best" questions because they generate more heat than light... more chitchat and less useful facts. –  Joel Spolsky Jun 22 '11 at 2:52
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I fear that with something as subjective as travel, there will be a lot of questions looking for recommendations. If such discussions from new members are routinely shut down, then the Travel SE will gain a reputation for being 'unwelcoming'. –  Ankur Banerjee Jun 22 '11 at 20:57
    
Would an acceptable question then be "What should I be looking for in a touring company when travelling to South America." Or "What are some good and bad indicators of Touring groups taking people up Mt Kilimanjaro" –  Abarax Jun 23 '11 at 23:59
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Asking for a recommendation for a good hotel or a quality cruise or an inexpensive airline is really no different than any other type of shopping recommendation. They may seem tolerable at first glance, but those questions are typically very localized and the author rarely, rarely provides enough criteria to adequately answer the question.

So, what we're left with is a bunch of opinion and random answers from participants who are only guessing what the user actually needs. That's why we explicitly disallow shopping questions.

Q&A is Hard, Let’s Go Shopping!

However, there are ways to ask recommendation-style questions that avoid the inherent problems with shopping recommendations.

First, if you're traveling with a 60-pound Siberian Husky, you might ask which airlines provide sufficient accommodations. In other words, keep your questions to solving very specific problems. If you are asking overly generalized questions, that just reeks of "do my work for me." Keep your questions to SPECIFIC problems you actually have. "What is a good tour company" is not an actual problem; It's just laziness.

Second, consider the adage "teach a man to fish". You can transform your highly localized "just give me the info" problem into something actually useful:

Give a man the answer, and he’ll only have a temporary solution. Teach him the principles that led you to that answer, and he will be able to create his own solutions in the future.

So instead of asking "What is a good cruise to take to Alaska?" You might ask instead: "I'm new to cruising, and prices vary wildly. How do I figure out the difference between these cruise lines and what sort of accommodations should I consider absolutely essential for a young family of four looking to travel on the strictest of budgets?"

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I think that "recommendation" questions COULD be ok, as long as the question was reasonably specific.

A question like "Could you recommend a list of good hotels in City X?" is way too broad. My reaction is, you need to tell me more about yourself and what you want before I can begin to answer the question.

If you gave me a bunch of constraints, it might sufficiently narrow the question to make it answerable: "We are traveling on a budget, can stay only 3-5 days in City X, need a hotel near public transportation because we don't have any, and have two small children." Then ask me about a few hotels that might meet your needs, and I might be able to answer.

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Yes I think if we keep handling them the way were currently do by asking the OP to narrow the question down until it's answerable and close if they don't/can't/won't is working pretty well. –  hippietrail Sep 20 '11 at 17:01
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