GuideBooks

The enduring journey of the travel guidebook | Travel

The enduring journey of the travel guidebook | Travel
Written by Publishing Team

When Aditya Gupta, an IT professional in Gurugram, left for Istanbul last week on a business trip with a vacation, among the essentials he put in his bag was a brand new copy of the Lonely Planet travel guide. This was the 12th travel guide he’d bought in the past four years, and they’re all now stacked with yellow sheets sprouting out of them, stacked on a bookshelf in his house. “These guidebooks are a record of my travels, and my ultimate advisor,” says Gupta. “I never felt lost in an unfamiliar place, whether I was in Peru or Prague.”

In fact, there are many like Gupta who still turn to travel guides – Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides – to plan the trips of their lives. No wonder then that the print travel guide, whose obituary was written a few years ago, is still alive and kicking, tackling the growing challenge from a host of digital platforms like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Google Trips and Instagram, which upload 80 million photos. every day, threatening to demystify travel.

“There has been a twofold rise in sales; in fact, 80% of our revenue comes from our print business. Unlike many online travel platforms, what our travel guides provide is curated, validated, and actionable information covering all aspects of travel,” he says. Sesh Seshadri, Director of Lonely Planet India.

Renee Fry, CEO of London-based APA Publications, which publishes both Rough Guides and Insight Guides, has also testified to the continued popularity of travel guide brochures. “The rise of online platforms like TripAdvisor led to a wave and many people thought the guide was dead. He says. “30-40% of all online reviews are alternate facts. The function of a physical travel guide is to provide the consumer with reliable, trustworthy, and organized information on how to plan a trip. Simply put, consumers buy Rough Guides or Insight Guides because they feel that someone they can trust has done the groundwork for them.”

The history of the modern travel guide dates back to the early 19th century when guidebooks publishers and writers such as John Murray-III, Karl Baedeker, and Mariana Starke became very popular among the newly wealthy travelers on their grand tours of Europe. Eugene Fodor, Arthur Frommer, and Tony Wheeler dominated the travel guide market in the 20th century, and their guides are still popular. In fact, many early editions of Murray and Baedeker became popular collectibles.

Hamira Gundogan of Turkey (left) with Regev Aloni of Israel.  Aloni says he prefers the Google Trips app to the guidebook.  (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)
Hamira Gundogan of Turkey (left) with Regev Aloni of Israel. Aloni says he prefers the Google Trips app to the guidebook. (Raj K Raj / HT PHOTO)

The Lonely Planet released its first guide to India in the 1980s, and in the words of its founder Tony Wheeler on the Lonely Planet India website, it was a turning point in the company’s history: “Our first guide to India in 1981 was a major breakthrough, an even bigger title. And bolder than anything we’ve ever done before and a book that was a critical and commercial success. This title changed Lonely Planet from a struggling small business to a more solidly grounded operation.” In 2015, the company launched Lonely Planet Kids, a richly illustrated book aimed at young travelers.

Today, despite the growing challenge from the Internet, most guidebook publishers are expanding their operations, adding new titles every year. DK Travel relaunched the Eyewitness Travel Guides series with a new design, brand photography and illustrations in 2018 to celebrate its 25th anniversary. “There has been a consistent demand for compact travel guides that focus on the top 10 highlights of a given destination. Indian destinations like Bengaluru and Goa have done well for us. Delhi has also been a consistent seller,” said Aparna Sharma, Managing Director of DK India. “People are starting to distrust digital technology, especially in the age of fake news. There has been a resurgence of all things physical – the resurgence in popularity of vinyl records, and the increase in sales of print books as a whole.”

Each travel guide has its own area of ​​specialization. While Lonely Planet is known for its comprehensive, no-nonsense facts, listings, and down-to-earth travel tips, Rough Guides is known for its in-depth sightseeing information. The Blue Guides, which began publishing in 1918, is known for providing a scholarly history of the places you visit. Most manuals are updated every two years.

“Each update is like a new edition but the writing style, tone and sound, which is a unique part of our guides, remain the same. We have 250 authors around the world visiting, revisiting, discovering new places and providing up-to-date and insightful information,” says Seshadri.

Many professional travel writers, like Archana Singh, who travels alone and runs a popular blog “Travel, See, Write” say she stores most of her travel information – boarding pass, itinerary, offline and online navigation apps, and hotel reservations – on her mobile phone, but she prefers to carry a physical travel guide when she visits an unusual or newer place. “Sometimes, when constant internet access is an issue, travel brochures come in handy too.

In addition, the ease and simplicity of the experience of turning pages linked to guidebooks cannot be compared with digital guides where navigation can be difficult at times.”

But then there are others who feel that when there are endless recommendations at your fingertips and a map of the entire planet in your mobile phone, there is no point in carrying a bulky travel book that expires in a couple of years. “Recently, I was in the Philippines and went looking for a coffee shop listed in the travel guide but found it closed,” said Regev Aloni, 24, who is from Israel and who lives in Delhi. “I’m a big fan of Google Trips.”

But his girlfriend from Turkey, Humira Gundogan, who is also taking a trip to Delhi, says she loves to travel without any guidebooks, whether digital or printed. “I just like to walk the streets when I’m in a new city, talk to the locals, and ask them where I can go; I think that’s the best way to explore a new place.”

Ajay Jain, a travel writer and founder of Kunzum Travel Café in Delhi, feels that travel guides need to reinvent themselves to stay relevant. “Instead of trying to piece together a lot of information about things to do, they should find a better way to comb the facts and tell the stories,” says Jain, who has written several books, including “Kunzum Delhi 101.” In fact, some travel writers and publishers have taken the idea of ​​a good travel guide away from curated content, while also focusing on the look and feel of the books.

Take, for example, Fiona Caulfield, founder of Love Travel India, a company that offers a range of handcrafted travel guides — Love Delhi Guide, Love Mumbai Guide and Love Goa Guide, among others — whose brand equity, according to Caulfield, It is a mixture of “originality, intimacy, and excitement”, the last of which refers to its design. “They are printed on delicately hand-woven paper; they boast khadi cotton covers, and all the books are hand bound,” says Caulfield, who hails from Australia and is based in Bengaluru. “Our guides are aimed at active, time-poor bums.”

Aditya Gupta says that a good travel guide is also a record of the culture, food, and lifestyle of a particular place during a particular period of history. “Maybe one day, I will pick a travel guide off my shelf and go back to these ancient places to see what happened to them.

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