To quote Mark Twain, are the reports of the travel guide’s death greatly exaggerated? Or is it the writing on the wall for the once ubiquitous travel companion?
On social media this week, you could be forgiven for thinking the death knell had sounded. Following the news that 70-80 jobs are going to disappear at my former employer Lonely Planet, a well-used Twitter thread (#lpmemories) reads in places like a eulogy of a declining format.
There were rumors that the company, the world’s largest publisher of travel guides, would no longer order print content. Lonely Planet, which was sold earlier this year by BBC Worldwide to Tennessee-based NC2 Media, dismissed the claims as “categorically false.” In a statement, he also said the reported cuts to his extensive list of guidebook publications – 123 new titles and editions due out this year – were unfounded.
Whatever the outcome of Lonely Planet’s upheavals, there is no doubt that the traditional guide market is under pressure. Last year, AA Publishing confirmed that it is no longer ordering printed travel guides. In February of this year, trade magazine The Bookseller reported a 41% drop in travel print categories over the past five years, although it noted some “remarkable successes,” including guides. Lonely Planet on Thailand and Australia.
Ben Box, author of the South American Handbook, which is about to mark its 90th edition, insists that “there is still life in the travel guide”, although he acknowledged that the Internet had considerably broadened the scope of the recommendations.
“On the evidence of my last trip… the majority of travelers carry a tablet, laptop or smartphone,” he said.
“Often the computer is next to a guide – the two go hand in hand. People always need solid, reliable and well-documented information – how they choose to convey this information is an individual choice.
He also highlighted the practical concerns of travelers heading to more distant locations.
“Do you really want to risk your expensive tablet or phone in the humid Peruvian jungle or the dusty altiplano? And what happens when the batteries fail or there is no Wi-Fi or internet? ”
Donald Strachan, technology and new media specialist at Telegraph Travel, said speculation about the future of printed guides was misleading.
“Guides are coming to us from all directions these days: smartphone apps, which are emailed to us before the holidays by a villa rental company or airline, are all over the internet,” a- he declared. “It’s a huge market. It is also (unlike paper books) a growing market.
He agreed that travelers’ need for reliable information was not something that would go away anytime soon.
“The key questions are how to distribute it on multiple platforms and how to charge for it,” he added. “I suspect this is the object of the changes at Lonely Planet. No one is buying a business for £ 50million just to shut it down.”