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Andrew Harper, on his secret identity and a local resort he loves

March 23, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • The traveler who goes by the name of Andrew Harper, as shown in a photo on his website.
The traveler who goes by the name of Andrew Harper, as shown in a photo on his… (www.andrewharper.com )

As disguises go, a newsletter over the face isn't a particularly convincing one (see attached photo). But it's enough for the man who isn't Andrew Harper.

Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report has been praising and detailing luxurious, exclusive travel for more than three decades. The report recently released its Grand Awards 2012, a list that picked a newcomer to the Southern California resort world as one of the best grand resorts. (You may download the list with  free registration, but subscriptions for print and online editions of the Hideaway Report will set you back $195 to $350 a year.)

It's written by Andrew Harper, a pseudonym for the real travel writer who doesn't disclose his identity. Here's a Q&A, via email, with the always-incognito Harper, who says his anonymity makes him "unsullied by the special treatment lavished on travel writers and editors who announced in advance their visits to hotels and resorts -- and who stayed for free. Hardly a guarantee of honest, unbiased information!" (Los Angeles Times travel writers and editors generally travel anonymously, generally don't announce their visits and pay for their expenses.)

Q: We never, ever know your true identity?

A: To ensure that Hideaway Report would be free from undue influence, I created the pseudonym Andrew Harper, booked all my travel under my real name, paid full fare on everything and refused to take advertising. Those policies stand today. As the company has grown, I have been lucky enough to assemble a very small cadre of trusted writer/editors with deep travel experience and passion to work with me in creating the monthly Hideaway Report newsletter and its expanded online edition, the Andrew Harper Collection, which is the directory of my favorite hotels and resorts, and the growing digital content on our website.

Q: Has your travel reader changed in light of the recession or do high-end travelers remain steadfast throughout the financial wild ride over the past few years?

A: I am delighted to say that the enthusiasm among our readers for travel has not waned and that, in fact, the Andrew Harper Travel Office had its best year ever in 2011. I have to add that it is a pleasure to write for such a devoted group of people who share my curiosity and love of seeing the world and experiencing it at its best.

Q: Southern California has finally made an appearance at the Hideaway listings with the inclusion of the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach. What about this particular resort that made it worthy?

A: If I may, I would like to point out that there are other Southern California properties which I recommended, but the Resort at Pelican Hill is the recipient of our 2012 award for Grand Resort.

That said, I was particularly interested in Pelican Hill because of the vision and imagination behind the project. The concept of an Italianate resort in a beautiful setting on the coast intrigued me, to say the least. On my visit, I was impressed by the sophistication of the design not only in the rooms and public spaces but in the overall integration of the resort into the setting. The circular pool, of course, is stunning, and the cuisine and overall service also made a highly favorable impression on me.

Q: What's upcoming from the Hideaway Report? Any particular trend/lists/etc.? And any plans for online readers to see more of your content?

A: I returned recently from an extensive stay in Chile, where I found several new properties that are of the highest caliber and distinction. Chile, with its incomparable scenery – from the dramatic Atacama desert in the north to the wine country in the Central Valley to the windswept steppes of southern Patagonia – highly developed infrastructure, notable cuisine and superb wines can now take its place as a wonderful destination for the sophisticated traveler.

My full report will be in the March issue of Hideaway Report. As for our online information, more of it is publicly available beyond the "wall" of our exclusive subscriber content than ever before and includes regular postings on Twitter, Facebook and on our blog. You can find all of this at AndrewHarper.com.

Q: Why are you granting an interview now, about a year since your last major media interview?

A: Our membership in California is substantial and growing, and it seemed to me that there would be a good overlap of interests between our readers. And, frankly, I was delighted by your interest in what we are doing! It is an exciting time for travel – despite the difficult economic conditions, new places are opening and people are interested in learning about and experiencing them.

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