Tuesday 23 July 2019

Pól Ó Conghaile: Has the death of the travel guidebook been exaggerated?

Travel Insider

Hiking with a tablet in the Grand Canyon. Photo: Deposit
Hiking with a tablet in the Grand Canyon. Photo: Deposit
Rome, Italy
St Lucia
Hiker in silhoette. Photo: Deposit
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Online publications and social media have hit traditional travel publishing hard, but they haven't killed it off... yet.

In 1957, Arthur Frommer published 'Europe on 5 Dollars a Day'.

A format was born. In the decades that followed, travel guides by Frommers, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides et al. sold by the truckload, combining with a boom in tourism to create a genre without which no backpack was complete.

We all know what happened next.

Online and mobile technologies hit travel publishing like a tornado. A new generation of digital natives latched onto social media, to Google, TripAdvisor, Skyscanner and a wave of apps to research, plan and share their adventures.

Between 2005 and 2012, combined sales at the seven largest travel publishers in the UK dropped by 46pc, according to a report for Nielsen BookScan. Lonely Planet was sold and re-sold. In 2012, Google purchased Frommer's.

But then came a curved ball.

In 2014, Arthur Frommer and his daughter Pauline bought their brand back. They updated 30 'EasyGuides' in print that year - lighter, more focused titles - and recently published an 800-page guide to Europe.

At the same time, Rough Guides has come up with Colour The World, a travel book that features outlines of iconic sights for travellers to colour in.

The future of print guides will always be niche, but it's a niche we may have underestimated. Many of us still yearn for a slower kind of travel - the scratch of pen on paper, the engagement required to compose a sketch or notes, rather than snap a selfie and move on.

The age of Europe on $5 a day is definitely over, but the death of the guidebook may have been exaggerated.


Rome, Italy

You'd be hard-pushed to do Europe on $5 a day now, but there are huge savings to be made on city breaks.

Cheaper oil has led to cheaper airfares, which have led to cheaper dynamically packaged holidays (i.e. combinations of accommodation and scheduled flights).

Cassidy Travel (cassidytravel.ie) has two nights in Amsterdam from €103pp in February, for instance. Budget Travel (budgettravel.ie) has flights plus three nights at a four-star hotel in Rome from €159pp in April.

Gohop.ie, ClickandGo.com and lowcostholidays.ie also have deals.


St Lucia

Planning a honeymoon in 2016?

Classic Resorts (classicresorts.ie) has several long-haul, bucket-list-style trips on special this month, including 11 nights in Kenya from €2,099pp - with four nights on safari and seven at a beach resort in Mombasa (travel in May).

It also has seven nights all-inclusive at the four-star Rendezvous resort in St Lucia (pictured) from €2,479pp (travel in June) and a 10-night, twin-centre, Mexico and Las Vegas trip including three nights at the five-star Aria Resort in Sin City from €1,699pp.

NB: Prices subject to availability.

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